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Canadian flight student indicted in plane theft

/ Source: The Associated Press

A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted a man accused of stealing a plane in Canada and flying over three states before landing along a dark southern Missouri highway.

Adam Dylan Leon, 31, was indicted in St. Louis on federal charges of interstate transportation of a stolen aircraft, importation of a stolen aircraft and illegal entry.

Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Reap said Leon is accused of flying a stolen Cessna 172 aircraft into the U.S. on April 6 from an airport in Ontario, Canada. He faces a maximum of 20 years and six months in prison.

Leon's attorney, federal public defender Lucille Liggett, declined to comment.

Authorities said Leon stole the plane from a flight school he attended and landed it more than seven hours later near a highway in southern Missouri. Leon allegedly told the FBI he was trying to commit suicide by U.S. fighter jet.

U.S. Department of Defense aircraft intercepted the plane after it entered American airspace and tried unsuccessfully to contact him. Authorities said the plane was nearly out of fuel when Leon landed it near Ellsinore.

Waiting for authorities
The Highway Patrol said Leon got a ride from a passer-by to a store, where he bought a Gatorade and sat at a booth until authorities arrived. He was arrested without incident.

Leon was born Yavuz Berke in Turkey before moving to Canada, changing his name, and becoming a naturalized citizen. He has been described as a good student and well-liked at the Confederation College Flight School in Thunder Bay, Ontario, where the plane was stolen.

He appeared in federal court Thursday for a hearing on whether he was competent to stand trial. Liggett had asked for a mental examination in April, and the judge ordered one. Neither she nor prosecutor D. John Sauer, with the U.S. Attorney's office, would say what the mental evaluators found. Sauer said that is typically under seal.

But through Liggett, Leon did not dispute that he is competent to stand trial. He was ordered detained pending further proceedings.