Brian Hedglin, 40, used a rug to scale the razor wire-topped security fence at the St. George Municipal Airport overnight Tuesday and drove off with the SkyWest jet, St. George city spokesman Marc Mortensen said.
Hedglin clipped a wing on the terminal building and crashed into cars in a parking lot, Mortensen said. The plane never left the ground.
A police officer making rounds around 12:50 AM found a motorcycle with the engine running just outside the perimeter fence. As he searched the grounds for the owner, the officer came upon the idling plane and called SkyWest, Mortensen said.
The airline sent an employee to turn off the engine, he said. Inside, Hedglin was found with a gunshot wound to his head.
It wasn't clear how Hedglin, who was a certified pilot, was able to access the plane. Mortensen said the airport is surrounded by six miles of perimeter fencing. He noted the facility meets all Federal Aviation Administration and Transportation Security Administration requirements.
SkyWest officials also said the man was on administrative leave and, at the request of police, they had deactivated his access cards after his ex-girlfriend's body was discovered on Friday.
Mortensen said the entire perimeter isn't observed at all times, "and I would dare say it isn't at any airport in the country."
Hedglin was also a member of the Colorado National Guard, where he was a part-time soldier who worked as a cook. He had no specialized military training and was never deployed, Capt. Darin Overstreet said.
He was wanted in connection with the death of Christina Cornejo, 39 of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Her body was found Friday with multiple stab wounds by police doing a welfare check at Hedglin's Cheyenne Villas Point home at the request of her family. Her death has been ruled a homicide.
Court documents indicate Hedglin dated Cornejo for four years and was arrested in March after a heated argument. He was free on $10,000 bond when Cornejo was found dead.
SkyWest officials said the CRJ200 plane was not in service at the time. The aircraft made by Bombardier is capable of flying up to 534 mph with a range of 1,700 miles. Normally it has a two-person flight crew and a single flight attendant.