Sheriff: Man drowns in Calapooia River while fleeing deputies

A Corvallis man fleeing from pursuing law enforcement officers drowned in the Calapooia River in the Tangent area Wednesday afternoon, March 29, Linn County Sheriff Michelle Duncan reported.

The sequence of events began at 3:53 p.m. when Linn County Dispatch Center received a 911 call regarding a suspicious vehicle. The caller reported finding a friend’s pickup, which had been stolen several days prior from a farm located at Venell Place in Corvallis, Benton County, Duncan said.

The caller and associates followed the stolen pickup and provided updated location information as deputies responded to the area, she said. Deputies located the stolen 2015 Ford F550 flatbed in the area of Wirth Road in Tangent, as it drove into a grass field, followed by two citizens who were also in pickups.

The stolen Ford pickup crashed into an embankment against a tree near the Calapooia River, and the driver fled on foot from the pickup towards the river.  The driver was later identified as Elijah Lyle Robb, 43, of Corvallis.

Robb was seen by witnesses running through thick brush where he jumped in the river and attempted to swim across the strong current as deputies arrived and began trying to locate him, Duncan said.

Robb was then witnessed swimming back to the bank, where he became hidden in thick brush hanging over the water. Deputies had to cut and climb over 100 yards of thick, tall brush to get to the bank of the river to try and locate Robb, Duncan said.

Sheriff’s Office drones used to help find Robb spotted some clothing in the water through the brush. Deputies believed this to be Robb hiding in the water.

Deputies were unable to reach the clothing in the water they believed to be Robb, so the Sheriff’s Office Water Rescue team was called to assist. As deputies tried to get to where Robb was spotted, it was noticed that he was not moving in the water.

Once deputies made it to the bank above where the clothing was, they found Robb floating face down in the water and he appeared deceased under the brush. The Water Rescue team was able to get to the location and confirm Robb was deceased and removed him from the water.

Responding deputies also located a 2005 Ford Focus nearby, which witnesses indicated was associated with the stolen vehicle.

Deputies found and detained Vanessa Morton, 38, Jesse Michael-Corona, 20, William Connell, 43, and Angie Nisly, 37, all from Albany.

Investigators were able to determine that Morton, Michael-Corona, Connell and Nisly had been with Robb while allegedly committing several burglaries in the area earlier that day. Investigators recovered a large amount of jewelry and several electronic devices that had been reportedly stolen from the burglaries, Duncan said.

Michael-Corona was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree burglary. Nisly was arrested on outstanding warrant.

Duncan said the investigation is ongoing and additional arrests and charges are likely.  Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact Detective Kyle Connelly of the Linn County Sheriff’s Office at (541) 967-3950.

The Linn County Sheriff’s Office was assisted by multiple citizens, Albany Police Department, Albany Fire Department, Linn County Road Department, and the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office.