Police: Man who stabbed, put cab driver in trunk ripped him off last year

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A Wisconsin cab driver was found dead in the trunk of his taxi after a high-speed chase Friday, and police say the man who killed him had ripped him off last year, according to reports.

Prosecutors say the 25-year-old suspect stabbed 79-year-old Merle Forbes on Thursday, just hours after he had been released from jail after serving time for car theft, the La Crosse Tribune says. Forbes, who owns a Platteville taxi company with his wife, was reported missing and endangered that same day.

Police discovered Forbes in the trunk of the taxi when the suspect crashed the vehicle after he led police on a high-speed chase through La Crosse County early Friday morning, WXOW reports. Police say the suspect drove against traffic, slid onto a sidewalk, ran a red light and reached speeds of 115 mph before he crashed into another vehicle and rolled, the La Crosse Tribune notes.

The suspect, of Lancaster, Wisconsin, is scheduled to return to court Thursday, where he could be formally charged. (BringMeTheNews typically does not name suspects until they are charged.)

Forbes was pronounced dead at the scene. An initial autopsy indicates Forbes died of injuries sustained in an assault, not due to the car accident, WKBT says.

"The allegations are that [the suspect] robbed and stabbed a cab driver in Grant County and then that individual was then found in the trunk of that vehicle," prosecutor Jessica Skemp said in court Monday, according to WKBT. "Homicide charges are being investigated and will likely be filed against [the suspect]."

A judge imposed a $500,000 cash bond due to the suspect's lengthy criminal history, after finding probable cause for charges that include reckless driving, causing great bodily harm and death.

Forbes' wife told TH Media that a prior run-in with the suspect led to her husband's death. Court records show that Forbes picked up the suspect on Aug. 24, 2013, but the suspect failed to pay the $90 cab fare and Forbes called police, the La Crosse Tribune says.

The suspect had pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge and he was sentenced to time served – a total of 24 days in jail.

Records show the suspect has a lengthy criminal history including 12 criminal cases in Wisconsin and Iowa in the past 18 months, and arrests in California and Illinois, reports say.

The suspect's defense says he has "unresolved mental health issues" and was not on medication during his recent stint in jail.

"Since [the suspect] was booked into the jail on Friday, he's been in a cell by himself, a cell in the medical unit and he's been on a 15-minute watch. He has also told me that crisis intervention has spoke with him," public defender Tom Laconte said Monday in court, according to WKBT.

The suspect could be hospitalized under a state law that allows for commitment of people with mental health issues who pose a threat to themselves or others, reports say.

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