The Creepy Car Chase That Inspired a Horror Film
Dennis DePue murdered his wife and then chased the witnesses
Have you seen the opening scene of Jeepers Creepers, the one where the creepy van follows the family car? Although the rest of the film was utter fiction, this particular scene was based on fact.
The creepy driver was a man who had just murdered his wife, and the couple being chased was a passing couple who saw what looked like a man hiding a body. Once this man saw them, a terrifying car chase ensued.
April 15th, 1990, was an Easter Sunday. Ray and Marie Thornton decided to go for a weekend drive along Snow Prairie Road. Twelve miles outside Coldwater, Michigan, a Chevrolet van appeared behind them.
The van driver was driving aggressively before he overtook them and went off into the distance. This, however, was not the last time the couple saw the van.
Along their drive, they came along an abandoned schoolhouse. The couple saw that the van from earlier was parked at the side of the building. That was when Marie spotted something disturbing.
The van driver was holding what appeared to be a bloody sheet. He walked towards the back of the schoolhouse. The couple sped up, but the van from the schoolhouse eerily rode their rear bumper for the next two miles.
It was this encounter that inspired the scene from Jeepers Creepers.
The Thorntons were not fazed by this situation and tried to obtain the full license plate for the police. Ray Thornton even turned his car around and attempted to approach the green van again.
That was when they saw that the vehicle driver had pulled over and changed the van’s rear license plate. However, it was not this sight that drew the couple’s attention; it was the blood-soaked inside of the van.
The couple carried on driving, returning to the schoolhouse; with great bravery or stupidity, depending on your outlook, they walked to the back of the building, finding a bloody sheet partially stuffed into an animal hole.
This was the moment they contacted the Michigan State Police. They told them their story and what they had witnessed. They did not know that the police were already scouring the area for a man and his injured wife.
Twenty-six-year-old DePue was born in Michigan in 1943. In 1971, he married the woman of his dreams.
Marilynn was a popular high school counsellor; the couple had three children, two girls and a boy. However, DePue soon showed his true personality; he became sullen and withdrawn.
He started by isolating himself from his family and would then regularly accuse Marilynn of turning the children against him. Finally, in 1989, Marilynn had enough and filed for divorce.
The couple’s divorce was finalised in December 1989. DePue did not claim the family home but requested he kept his office in the garage. The arrangement suited them both until it didn’t.
One day, Marilynn returned home and found her ex-husband sitting on the couch in the living room. The problem was the locks had been changed when the couples separated. It is unclear how Marilynn dealt with this.
On Easter Sunday, 1990, DePue arrived at the family home to pick up two of their children to spend the day together. The youngest daughter had refused to go with her father.
As DePue waited for the other two, he became frustrated at his son, who seemed to be stalling for time; this angered DePue greatly. Marilynn tried to calm the situation, but this only angered him more. Finally, he grabbed her and started shouting accusations at her.
He turned on her and pushed her down the stairs whilst his three children looked on. He then went down the stairs and beat her whilst she was lying there. Their oldest daughter ran outside, to a neighbour’s house to call the police.
Whilst she was out, DePue left the house with Marilynn, who was seriously injured, telling his children he was taking her to the hospital. This was when DePue came into the path of the Thorntons.
After the phone call from the couple, forensic teams sealed off the abandoned schoolhouse and identified that the tire tracks at the school matched that of the van belonging to DePue.
Police then started a widespread search for the killer. On the road halfway between the schoolhouse and the family home, they found the body of Marilynn. She had been shot once in the back of the head.
DePue was not finished; over the next couple of weeks, he sent a series of strange rambling letters to his friends and families justifying Marilynn’s death.
On March 20th 1991, a Texas woman arrived home to see that her boyfriend’s car was parked in the driveway when he usually kept it in the garage.
When she approached him, he apologised, saying he needed to take an emergency trip home; he then asked her to make him some sandwiches.
He deliberately kept her distracted in the kitchen so that she did not see the second half of the television show, which featured a man called DePue who had murdered his wife.
It was too late, as a neighbour had spotted DePue’s van, and the show had received a tip-off about his new location.
Louisiana state troopers spotted DePue’s van with false Texas license plates. What started, was a fifteen-mile high-speed chase. Finally, DePue blasted through a roadblock in Warren County.
Sheriff’s on the roadblock shot out both the rear tires. DePue returned fire, shooting at the officer’s cars. He also attempted to ram them off the road.
The van came to a forceable stop at 4 am. Officers approached the van to arrest DePue. However, he had decided that he would never face justice. Officers found him dead in his van with a .357 gun in his hand and his thumb on the trigger. He left three children without either of their parents.