Car chase leads La Crosse police to homicide investigation

Following car chase, police find elderly man dead in trunk

A man from Lancaster, Wisconsin, has been released from the hospital and is awaiting criminal charges in the La Crosse County Jail after a car crash on Highway 35 in Holmen early Friday morning.

The La Crosse Police Department said an officer ran the plates on a car just after 1 a.m. Friday near downtown La Crosse. It came up as stolen and the driver did not match the owner’s description.

The 79-year-old owner of the car was reported missing and endangered from Platteville Thursday, according to La Crosse police. The officer tried to pull the car over, which led to a chase on Highway 35 towards Holmen.  It ended with the suspect rear ending another vehicle and rolling over. The driver, 25-year-old Timmy Johnson Jr was taken into custody.

Officers found an elderly man in the trunk of the stolen car who was pronounced dead at the scene. Police noticed injuries appeared to be from an assault prior to the crash.  The victim is identified as 79-year-old Merle Forbes, according one of his family members. Merle Forbes is the father of Curtis Forbes who is serving time for a 1980 homicide.

An autopsy for Merle Forbes is scheduled for Friday.

Tri-State Ambulance officials told News 8 two people were taken to the hospital after the crash. One of them had life-threatening injuries, the other had non- life-threatening injuries. Johnson, Jr. was released and taken to the La Crosse County Jail Friday night around 8:30 p.m.

“When it [the stolen car] went off-road, it went up the slope and rolled over, and came back down to  where it’s sitting right now,” Holmen Police Chief Michael McHugh said.  “Any high speed chase type accident usually results in significant damage, and sometimes death.”

Chief McHugh said it’s too early to say how fast the stolen car was going. There are multiple law enforcement agencies involved in this investigation.

“The La Crosse Police, of course, were the originating agency,”  Chief McHugh said. “We have the Wisconsin State Patrol coming in to do a traffic accident reconstruction.”

Both lanes of Highway 35 in the impacted area re-opened to traffic around 6:30 a.m. Friday.

Criminal charges are pending for Johnson Jr. La Crosse police said his driver’s license is listed as Dubuque, Iowa, but Johnson lives in Lancaster, Wisconsin.