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Murder suspect arrested on I-15

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A northern California manhunt ended Thanksgiving Day when a Utah Highway Patrol trooper arrested an armored car driver suspected of murdering his partner in Oakland and stealing a truckload of cash.

Thomas Franklin Wheelock was taken into custody about 1:30 p.m. Thursday after trooper Randall Richey noticed a missing rear license plate on Wheelock's vehicle. The trooper pulled over the brown 1985 Ford Bronco Wheelock was driving on I-15 near Centerville.While checking Wheelock's identification, the trooper learned the 20-year-old was suspected in a robbery and homicide Tuesday in Oakland, and arrested him without incident, said Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Verdi White II.

Wheelock was taken to the Davis County Jail in Farmington.

Officials said Wheelock didn't attempt to deceive the arresting officer and appeared to want to be caught. He was traveling alone and did not resist arrest in any way, White said.

Northern California police had been on a two-day hunt for Wheelock since his partner's body was found in the abandoned armored van behind an auto body shop in Wheelock's hometown of San Ramon, a community east of San Francisco Bay.

Oakland police believe Wheelock shot his partner, Rodrigo Cortez, 30, then fled with $300,000 from the Armored Transport Co. of the Bay Area.

An extradition hearing was scheduled for later Friday before 2nd District Court Judge Rodney S. Page in Farmington.

A pair of Oakland police homicide detectives arrived in Utah late Thursday to question Wheelock and search his vehicle.

Utah police did not search the Bronco, registered to Wheelock, or interview the suspect, so it wasn't clear where Wheelock had been during the past two days or where he was headed, White said.

The man had shaved his head and was found with just a few hundred dollars. He was not carrying a gun, Sgt. Wayne Gifford said.

Utah Highway Patrol officers notified Oakland detectives of the arrest.

"He's being held for the California detectives," White said. "It's their case, and we're basically helping them by holding him here."

Utah officials also may charge Wheelock with some misdemeanor traffic offenses, White said.

The California Highway Patrol said Wednesday an officer unknowingly assisted the suspect when his getaway car broke down on Highway 5 in northern California. The officer apparently helped Wheelock get his car to a repair shop in Red Bluff, Calif. Afterward, as Wheelock's car headed north into Oregon, the officer realized the man was a suspect in the armored car robbery and homicide.

A police SWAT team stormed a hotel room Wednesday morning in Sacramento, but did not find Wheelock. Officers did recover most of the missing money and arrested a man suspected of being Wheelock's accomplice.

The SWAT team apparently just missed Wheelock in a pre-dawn raid Wednesday at the motel room.

Wheelock worked at Armored Transport for less than two months, and was on probation for a 1995 misdemeanor robbery, according to FBI records.