updated 11/26/2009 12:36:01 PM ET 2009-11-26T17:36:01

A Nebraska man who told a judge he fled with his wife and children into the South Dakota wilderness to avoid authorities has been sentenced to three years in prison for stealing a fire truck.

Matthew Schade and his wife, Rowena, vanished with their children last spring after being questioned about domestic abuse allegations. They turned themselves in 18 days later.

Authorities say the family broke into two cabins and took a fire truck while they were in South Dakota's Black Hills.

Schade told the 7th Circuit Judge Merton Tice that he fled with his family into the wilderness because they feared Nebraska officials would take the children into custody.

Rowena Schade was given a six-month suspended jail sentence for the theft earlier this month.

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