Verdi manhunt ends with two arrests

Two assailants wound up in Atascosa County jail after they allegedly beat a truck driver with a baseball bat and robbed him at the northeast rest area on Interstate 37 early last Wednesday, March 20.

Ronald Ponce, 39, and Stacie Dale Leavelle, 43, both of San Antonio, left with the driver’s cell phone and were spotted near the Z’s Super Stop on Highway 97 near the IH-37 intersection.

Leavelle drove away while Atascosa County Sheriff Deputy Sergeant Paul Schneider was attempting to arrest Ponce. Ponce escaped and fled on foot, jumping into his partner’s vehicle. A high speed chase ensued on Highway 97 east before turning north on Witten Road into the Verdi Community. The pair then drove through a fence behind the Verdi Church of Christ, abandoned their vehicle and fled on foot. A ground and air search, led by CID Captain Matt Miller, was called off after a few hours.

Later that afternoon, a Verdi resident spotted the couple and the search continued with Sheriff’s Deputies and DPS troopers and a helicopter. As darkness fell, an infrared camera on the chopper helped to locate the suspects who were then arrested without incident.

Leavelle was charged with Aggravated Robbery and Evading arrest with a Motor Vehicle. Ponce was charged with Aggravated Robbery. Both also had outstanding warrants out of Bexar County for Theft and Burglary of a Vehicle.

Total bond was set at $210,000 on Leavelle and $160,000 on Ponce. Sheriff David Soward stated that both remain in the Atascosa County Jail in lieu of bond.

Assisting in the investigation were Sergeant Investigators Max Peralta and Albert Garza, Deputies Ivan Mendez, Clint Luckett, George Lopez and Sgt. John Rothenbach.

Soward also stated that the truck driver’s injuries were not serious.

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