Driver suspected of causing multiple collisions in Grass Valley arrested |

Driver suspected of causing multiple collisions in Grass Valley arrested

John Thinnes

A Grass Valley man already facing a pending hit-and-run case fled from additional vehicle collisions, seriously injuring another driver in one incident, authorities said.

John Cole Thinnes, 36, was arrested Wednesday night by Grass Valley police officers after he tried to flee once again, said Sgt. Brian Blakemore.

Thinnes was booked into the Nevada County Jail on charges of carjacking, hit-and-run causing serious bodily injury, and resisting arrest. He remained held Thursday on a $202,500 bond, jail records state. Additional charges of reckless driving and misdemeanor hit-and-run will be requested, Blakemore said,

Grass Valley police officers responded to a report of a hit-and-run collision that occurred just before 7 p.m. Tuesday, Blakemore said,

Thinnes was driving a mid-1990s Toyota pickup in the area of Highway 20/49 and West Empire Street, and was involved in a collision that disabled another motorist’s Infiniti, Blakemore said. According to dispatch reports, the collision occurred when he ran a red light.

Thinnes left the scene on foot and was not located, Blakemore said, adding that no one was injured and charges were filed for the hit-and-run.

The next day, around 2:45 p.m. Wednesday, police officers were dispatched to Highway 49 and Idaho Maryland Road for a report of a collision involving a person ejected from a vehicle, Blakemore said. At the scene, it was determined no ejection had occurred, however.

Thinnes was the passenger in a Volkswagen Passat being driven by his mother when the two began arguing, the sergeant said.

“She pulled the car over and they both got out,” Blakemore said. “He shoved her to the ground and stole the keys from her hand.”

Thinnes got into the car and began driving eastbound on Idaho Maryland Road at high speed before rear-ending a car in the 400 block, Blakemore said. This sent the Passat into the westbound lane, where it hit a Chevrolet SUV being driven by 21-year-old Elijah Nix head-on.

The SUV had just been given to Nix’s girlfriend, 19-year-old Kiegan Hovanski, and the couple was heading home after buying paint to renovate their Airstream, Hovanski said.

Victim sustained multiple fractures

“I looked up and there was a car in our lane heading right toward us,” Hovanski said. “I closed my eyes … I remember Eli screaming. When I opened my eyes, the car was flipped over. I was screaming for help.”

Nix swerved to try and avoid the oncoming car, and his side bore the brunt of the impact, Hovanski said.

Hovanski didn’t sustain any serious injuries, but Nix knew his legs were broken, she said.

“People came out to help us,” she said. “I’m just really grateful that we live in a good community with good people. They were really comforting. I hope I get the chance to thank them.”

Nix eventually was extricated through the back by emergency personnel before both were transported to Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and then Sutter Roseville Medical Center. He was waiting Thursday to go into surgery to repair multiple fractures, Hovanski said. A fund-raiser has been set up to help the couple, with Nix expected to be unable to work for weeks.

“Luckily, we’re OK,” Hovanski said. “That’s what’s important. … We could have died.”

Meanwhile, Thinnes tried to drive away, making it about 100 yards before abandoning the “completely disabled” Passat, Blakemore said.

“The front tire had been ripped off,” he said. “He left it in the middle of the road.”

Multiple officers searched the area but did not locate Thinnes. Around 11 p.m., his mother called to report he was on her property in the 300 block of Pleasant Street, Blakemore said. Thinnes attempted to flee but was detained after a short foot pursuit, he said.

Thinnes already had two open misdemeanor cases from this year, court records state — failing to stop at an intersection and evading an officer in June, and a hit-and-run in September. He is set to appear in court Nov. 16 on both cases.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User