Petaluma stalking suspect arrested after 2-hour corn maze search

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A Petaluma man suspected of stalking a woman and breaking the conditions of his restraining order was arrested Saturday morning, following a two-hour search after he darted across Highway 101 into the Petaluma Pumpkin Patch corn maze, police said.

Officers began looking for the man, identified as Ryan Kenneth Watt, 29, Friday, when the Petaluma Police Department was alerted at about 8:59 p.m. that Watt had violated a restraining order that barred him from talking to his former girlfriend.

The woman, who is involved in a stalking case against Watt, told officers Watt was sending her texts and calling her, asking that she drop charges.

Officers began looking for Watt, who is homeless, at local homeless encampments, eventually finding him at one at Willowbrook Court off of North McDowell Boulevard in north Petaluma. He ran from police, and officers were not able to locate him.

Police returned Saturday and spotted Watt again at about 8:55 a.m. He ran, fleeing west across Highway 101 and into the Petaluma Pumpkin Patch corn maze, which sits on 4 acres, Crosby said.

“He runs from our officers across the freeway,” Crosby said. “How he didn’t get hit, I don’t know.”

Officers set up a perimeter around the maze and, with the help of a CHP officer, two three-person groups conducted a systematic search of the maze. A CHP helicopter also came to help, though Watt could not be found, Crosby said.

By almost 11 a.m., the helicopter was almost out of fuel and officers were losing confidence in their search, Crosby added.

“We had searched the corn maze itself pretty throughly and hadn’t found him,” Crosby said. “At some point, you have to call it.”

It wasn’t until an officer was exiting the maze that the officer spotted the chicken coop and decided to look inside, Crosby said. Watt was found inside and arrested.

He was booked into the Sonoma County Jail on suspicion of violating the restraining order, attempting to dissuade a victim of a crime, resisting arrest and for a warrant in an unrelated September prowling case, Crosby said.

A judge approved a bail enhancement that set bail at $250,000, Crosby added.

The police department asked for the enhancement to protect Watt’s former girlfriend, Crosby said. In the ongoing stalking investigation, which is being reviewed by the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office, police have documented five instances in which Watt is suspected of behavior such as showing up uninvited to the woman’s home, hacking her social media accounts and texting her when she’s with friends to let her know he’s tracking her whereabouts, Crosby added. Those instances have resulted in Watt being arrested three times over the course of a month, Crosby said.

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nashellytweets.

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