By Jennifer Dobner
SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - A murder suspect broke into a small passenger jet at a Utah airport on Tuesday, taxied it into a parking lot, then shot himself dead on board, police and officials said.
Brian Hedglin, a 40-year-old employee of SkyWest Airlines, scaled a security fence at the St. George Municipal Airport early Tuesday morning using a rug and some gloves, according to Marc Mortensen, a spokesman for the city of St. George.
Hedglin entered a SkyWest aircraft, started it up and taxied though an airport fence into the parking lot. He then shot himself, police said.
SkyWest said Hedglin, a resident of Colorado Springs, Colorado, was on administrative leave from the airline. The airline did not elaborate.
Hedglin served as a food service specialist in the Colorado Army National Guard, but had never deployed.
The plane was described as a CRJ200, a small regional passenger jet that accommodates 50 passengers.
Both the Colorado Army National Guard and police in Colorado Springs confirmed that Hedglin was wanted for questioning in connection with the July 13 murder of 39-year-old Christina Cornejo, who was found dead in her home. She had been stabbed multiple times, and the coroner ruled it a homicide.
Authorities had been searching for Hedglin since July 13, and detectives had enlisted the assistance of SkyWest, asking the airline to deactivate Hedglin's access cards to its facilities, Colorado Springs police said.
A police officer doing a perimeter check of the airport discovered an abandoned motorcycle outside the airport fence, Mortensen said. The officer found the rug over the security fence and raised the alarm.
"SkyWest Airlines has confirmed that a SkyWest employee was involved in a ground incident with an aircraft at St. George Municipal Airport," the airline said in a statement.
"The aircraft did sustain damage; the extent of the damage is currently being inspected by our maintenance and safety professionals."
FBI agents are investigating along with the St. George city police and the Transportation Security Administration, FBI spokeswoman Deborah Bertram said in an email.
Local officials said the airport had been temporarily closed. SkyWest said its flights were being diverted to an airport in Cedar City, Utah, from St. George.
The airport is expected to reopen late on Tuesday for private planes but not for commercial service, Mortensen said.
SkyWest operates Delta Connection and United Express flights to Salt Lake City and Los Angeles from the airport, which is the largest in southern Utah. St. George has a population of 73,000.
It was not clear on Tuesday how many flights were affected. The airport, which is owned by the city, opened in 2011.
(Writing and additional reporting by Mary Slosson; Editing by Tim Gaynor, Dan Whitcomb and David Brunnstrom)
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