Plot Twist: Novelist, Filmmaker Disappears from Jackson Hole 

Faleena Hopkins believed to have departed on flight for Salt Lake City, Utah police say

Pictured above is the last confirmed sighting of missing romance novelist Faleena Hopkins as she departed the Teton County Detention Center after her release on Jan. 30. (Courtesy photo from the Jackson Police Department)

By Melissa Thomasma

Special to the Wyoming Truth


JACKSON HOLE, Wyo.— Missing romance novelist and filmmaker Faleena Marie Hopkins is believed to have departed Jackson Hole for Utah in the hours after her release from Teton County Detention Center following her Jan. 27 arrest for leading authorities on a 24-miles chase through Grand Teton National Park, police said Tuesday.  

Hopkins, 52, was released from custody by Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Kelly Rankin on Jan. 30.  Days later, friends and family reported her missing to police. Hopkins has not been heard from since her release.

“The last footage we have of Ms. Hopkins is when she walked out of the jail lobby in the Teton County Detention Center,” Lt. Russ Ruschill of the Jackson Police Department told the Wyoming Truth. “We are 99% sure that she boarded a plane bound for Salt Lake City at approximately 5:30 on the afternoon she was released. We know that she purchased a ticket, and the boarding pass that she was issued was used.”

Ruschill said police have turned over all relevant information to law enforcement in Salt Lake City.

Novelist and filmmaker Faleena Hopkins was believed to have gone missing from Jackson Hole, but has now been traced by authorities to Salt Lake City. Officials are working to determine whether Hopkins left the airport in Salt Lake or boarded another plane to a second destination. (Photo via Faleena Hopkins’ website)

Events triggering Hopkins’ arrest

Hopkins, a resident of Washington, is a romance novelist and filmmaker known for her failed attempt to trademark the word “cocky.” She has published over 40 novels; her directorial debut, “Just One More Kiss,” won Best Feature Film at the Big Apple Film Festival and acquired distribution through Lionsgate on Amazon.

Valerie Gohlke, public affairs officer for Grand Teton National Park, provided the Wyoming Truth with the following account of Hopkins’ arrest:

Minutes before 10 a.m. on Jan. 27, Teton Interagency Dispatch received a call that a red Kia Soul was stuck in the snow near Flagg Ranch, near the southernmost entrance to Yellowstone National Park. The driver, Hopkins, had attempted to drive on a seasonally closed road that was snow covered; her vehicle had to be removed with the help of a snow plow, Golhke said.

About an hour later, a ranger in Grand Teton National Park turned on his vehicle’s emergency lights to contact Hopkins in the vicinity of Jackson Lake Junction, 22 miles to the south of Flagg Ranch[CH1] . “An officer saw her stopped in the road not far from Jackson Lake Lodge,” Gohlke said. When he activated his vehicle’s flashers, Hopkins fled in her vehicle, leading the officer on a 24-mile high-speed chase southward through the park on Highway 89.

Gohlke confirmed that Hopkins was clocked as driving over 75 miles per hour, reaching speeds up to 90 mph[CH2] . “Rangers were concerned about the increased speed and safety of driving in winter conditions, so they dropped back and deployed spike strips,” she said.

Hopkins continued southbound for a few more miles before finally stopping at Moose Junction, where she was arrested, taken into custody by park rangers and transported to the Teton County Jail. 

Hopkins was charged with fleeing or attempting to elude police officers, obstructing traffic, operating a vehicle above the posted speed limit, failing to comply with a traffic control device and operating a vehicle without due care, Gohlke said.

Hopkins is due to appear via Zoom in federal court in Jackson Hole for an arraignment on Feb. 28.

Anyone with information regarding Hopkins’ whereabouts is asked to contact the Jackson Police Department at (307) 733-1430 or the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation at (307) 777-7181.

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