It took two hours, a plane and six officers to track down a suspected stalker after he fled into an elaborate corn maze in Petaluma over the weekend.
Police began searching for Ryan Kenneth Watt, 29, of Petaluma, on Friday evening after his ex-girlfriend reported Watt had violated a restraining order by texting and calling her, the Petaluma Police Department said.
Officers looked for Watt, whom they described as a transient with a history of stalking behavior, at a homeless encampment but couldn’t find him. Police visited the camp again the next morning and spotted Watt just before 9 a.m.
Watt ran across a nearby freeway and into a corn maze in the 400 block of Stony Point Road that was being prepped for Halloween visitors and had not yet opened, police said.
Officers set up a perimeter around the corn maze, called the California Highway Patrol for backup and deployed a fixed-wing aircraft to circle the field.
The Petaluma Pumpkin Patch is advertised as a challenging maze that typically takes 45 minutes to complete. For $7 in the daytime and $10 in the evening, visitors can get lost in the 4-acre maze with 10-foot corn stalks and just one way in and out.
“I’ve been to that maze myself, off-duty with kids,” Lt. Ed Crosby of the Petaluma Police Department told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. “It’s a great place to hide. It’s very narrow. It takes a long time to get through it.”
Police combed the maze methodically, covering every inch, but still couldn’t find Watt.
“The aircraft didn’t see any movement,” Crosby said. “We were getting ready to close it down.”
Then one of the officers noticed a chicken coop about 20 feet from the edge of the maze. An officer kicked the door in and found Watt hiding inside.
He was arrested without incident just before 11 a.m., police said.
Investigators had been monitoring Watt even before his ex-girlfriend reported him Friday. Police said he had a history of showing up uninvited at the woman’s home and at her son’s school, hacking her social media accounts and texting her while she is with friends to say he’s watching her.
Watt was arrested Sept. 21 for prowling in the backyard of a home, according to police.
He was being held in custody in lieu of $250,000 bail and was expected in court Tuesday morning.