Man admits he flew stolen plane from Canada to Missouri

Thursday, August 13, 2009 | 4:02 p.m. CDT; updated 6:46 p.m. CDT, Thursday, August 13, 2009

ST. LOUIS — A 31-year-old Canadian man pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to stealing a plane in Canada and flying over three states before landing along a dark southern Missouri highway.

Adam Dylan Leon admitted to all federal charges he'd faced: interstate transportation of a stolen aircraft, importation of a stolen aircraft and illegal entry.

Leon, who was born Yavuz Berke in Turkey before moving to Canada, changing his name, and becoming a naturalized citizen, admitted that on April 6, he stole a four-seat Cessna 172 from his Thunder Bay, Ontario, flight school and crossed the U.S. border. Leon landed the plane more than seven hours later on a road off of Highway 60 near Ellsinore, Mo.

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.

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. He allegedly told authorities he was hoping to get shot down and end his life.

On Thursday, Leon told U.S. District Judge Charles Shaw that he suffered from depression but was not mentally ill.

He faces a maximum of 20 years and six months in prison at his Nov. 3 sentencing, where federal public defender Lucille Liggett told Shaw she would be arguing for less prison time. She did not return a phone call seeking comment later.

Leon 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.

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