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Was pair linked to Utahn’s death?

Couple shot, killed in Kansas; they may have stolen Poulos car

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Kansas police shot and killed a man and a woman wanted for questioning in the slaying of Steven J. Poulos, the 80-year-old World War II veteran found shot in the back in his Holladay home.

"For right now, for what they're telling us, it looks like they've got the right people," said Nick Poulos, the victim's son.

The shootout was the culmination of a chase that started about 2 p.m. Wednesday on I-70 near Hays, Kan.

A statement from Ellis County Attorney Thomas J. Drees said police attempted to stop a white Honda with Colorado plates. The car took off, leading Kansas Highway Patrol troopers and Ellis County sheriff's deputies on a high-speed chase that ended when the Honda crashed into a concrete barricade.

"Officers approached the suspect vehicle and were fired upon by a subject in the vehicle," Drees said in a statement. "Officers returned fire, killing both suspects."

Kansas police refused to release any information about the man and woman killed by officers, but Salt Lake County sheriff's deputies identified the woman as Alicia Lyn Wingate, 26, of North Salt Lake. The man remained unidentified Wednesday night, but Salt Lake County authorities said he had an arrest warrant issued out of Colorado.

Homicide detectives in Utah became aware of Wingate through a phone call she made to the Poulos home on Jan. 14, the day of his death, said Salt Lake County Sheriff's Sgt. Paul Jaroscak. Investigators went over phone records, talking to several people who had called Steven Poulos, inquiring about a 1997 Subaru Legacy he had been selling through classified ads in the Deseret Morning News and Salt Lake Tribune.

"We called a Colorado number the day after the murder and spoke with a woman," Jaroscak said Wednesday. "This particular one, when we talked to her, she wasn't truthful. We caught her in a lie."

Detectives decided to make an unannounced visit to the woman in Denver. While investigators were en route, police in Denver tried to contact the woman. Police believed she was home, but no one would answer the door, Jaroscak said.

"We would call her on her cell phone, and she would give us information we knew to be incorrect on her whereabouts," he said. By the time Utah homicide detectives arrived in Colorado, they had already been tracking her cell phone. Jaroscak said it led them to Kansas.

"We knew in talking to acquaintances of theirs in Denver what kind of car they would be driving," Jaroscak said. "We gave a car description and a description of the people we wanted to talk to to Kansas authorities."

Prior to the shootout on Wednesday, Salt Lake County prosecutors filed a second-degree felony charge of obstruction of justice against Wingate in 3rd District Court. A probable cause statement details her phone call and states she tried to cover up where and why the call was made.

The shooting was still under investigation by several Kansas police agencies late Wednesday. Salt Lake County sheriff's investigators were in Hays, also following up.

"I'm in shock right now," said Nick Poulos. "We have so much grief and so much elation, and we also have at the same time, a little apprehension."

Poulos told the Deseret Morning News that the man and woman matched the description of a couple seen getting out of a cab at Steven Poulos' home the day of the slaying. He said it appears the couple killed his father to steal a car that he was selling, a crime the family finds unfathomable.

"When you take a life that easy and take a life for granted just to steal a car," Poulos said.

Jaroscak would not say if the motive for the slaying was the theft of the 1997 Subaru Legacy that Poulos was selling.

"That's kind of why we wanted to talk to them," he said. The car the couple crashed was a white Honda. Police had not found the maroon Subaru taken from the Poulos home.

The Poulos family had scheduled a news conference at Steven Poulos' Holladay home today to announce a $25,000 reward for information leading to the killers' arrest and conviction. Nick Poulos said the family still planned to hold that news conference but would reveal more information about the man and woman killed in Kansas.

Steven Poulos was found shot to death inside his gated Holladay home on the afternoon of Jan. 14. His wife, Billie, and members of his family came home to find him lying face down on the floor. Jaroscak said initially family members thought it was a medical problem but turned him over and found a bullet wound.

A World War II hero who was shot five times while pinned down on Omaha Beach on D-Day, Poulos was awarded a purple heart, bronze star, combat infantry badge and a blue ribbon citation. He was the subject of a recent public television documentary on Utah war heroes. A cousin to Utah auto-dealer Gus Paulos, he was a well respected member of the Greek Orthodox Community.

Contributing: Wendy Leonard

E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com