Charges filed in multi-county vehicle chase, theft
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Alice Campbell Havre Daily News [email protected]
A man who led three law enforcement agencies on a chase from Box Elder to Big Sandy and then back to Havre is being held on $75,000 bond in the Hill County Detention Center after having 16 charges filed against him. James Taylor Marshall, 47, was arrested July 24, with formal charges filed Tuesday, including two charges of criminal endangerment, three of theft, one of criminal mischief, five of assault on a peace or judicial officer all felony charges and driving under the influence of alcohol, fleeing from or eluding a peace officer, obstructing a peace officer, driving while privilege to do so is suspended or revoked and negligent vehicular assault misdemeanors. Each of the felonies carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. The charges stem from a vehicle chase the night of his arrest and, what deputies later learned, of the theft of three vehicles. Hill County Sheriff's Deputy Patrick Fleming was notified at 5:21 p.m. July 24 of a report of an erratic driver traveling south on U.S. Highway 87, and noticed on his way north from Box Elder a dark-colored semi-truck “pull into the passing lane on U.S. 87 forcing an oncoming vehicle to pull off to the side of the road in order to avoid an accident,” according to the charging document. Fleming proceeded to initiate a traffic stop, but the truck continued traveling at approximately 80 mph southward, pulling into the northbound lane to pass slower vehicles and causing two more vehicles to pull off to avoid a collision. When the truck reached Big Sandy, it slowed to 20 mph, eventually stopping. Fleming “commanded Marshall to turn off the engine and show his hands,” which he refused to do, asking instead why he was pulled over. Fleming again asked Marshall to turn off the engine and exit the vehicle, and again, the man refused. Fleming then attempted to open the truck door, but it was locked, and Marshall began driving again, this time northbound on U.S. Highway 87. By this time, Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Jeff Martin had set up spike strips in the northbound lane and was standing outside his car. When Marshall reached the spot, he headed toward Martin, forcing him to run into the ditch, while hitting the spike strips with the front passenger tire of the truck in the process. Marshall continued driving toward Havre at a speed of approximately 80 mph, nearly hitting three law enforcement vehicles on the way and forcing a vehicle off the road after striking it. Havre police officers had set up spike strips near the Big Sandy Creek and Beaver Creek bridges west of Havre, and were waiting outside of their Vehicles by Beaver Creek when Marshal l reached them. Marshall veered toward Officer Aaron Wittmer while Wittmer pulled a spike strip into position. Marshall hit the spike strip, deflating the remaining three fully-inflated tires and nearly hitting Wittmer. When Marshall swerved into the southbound lane, he hit another spike strip, but continued at approximately 80 mph toward Havre. At the intersection of U.S. Highway 87 and Old Post Road, Marshall hit another vehicle, but “striking the vehicle did not slow Marshall's speed and he continued traveling northbound on US 87,” the charging document said. Slowing to 70 mph at the intersection of U.S. Highway 87 and U.S. Highway 2, Marshall “attempted to make a right turn from US 87 on to US 2 at the intersection” and “lost control of his vehicle and ran over the traffic control median in the intersection,” according to the charging document. The semi-truck came to a complete stop in the ditch on the north side of the highway and Marshall jumped out, lying flat on his stomach. Martin cuffed him, arresting him for driving under the influence of intoxicants. Marshall failed several field sobriety tests, and the breath test result was .188 blood alcohol concentration, more than twice the legal limit. During the booking process, it was discovered that Marshall provided deputies with incorrect information, including the wrong date of birth, Social Security number and name, and deputies discovered “a complex list of alias, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and names used in what appeared to be a lengthy multi-jurisdiction criminal history,” the charging document said. The female passenger in the semi-truck was questioned and t ransported to Northern Montana Hospital, complaining of a head injury sustained during the chase. Fleming spoke with a representative of Bill Baltrusch Construction Inc., the company the truck was registered to and learned that Marshall, who the representative said he didn't know, did not have permission to use the vehicle. The female passenger informed deputies that Marshall told her he had gotten a job with Vaughn Trucking and had to pick up a load in Great Falls. She also told deputies that Marshall kept asking why he was being pulled over in Big Sandy, saying “he asked what he had done wrong and couldn't figure out why we were being stopped,” according to the charging document. Later, Martin was advised of an abandoned vehicle at a property on the 3100 block of U.S. Highway 2 Northeast. That vehicle, later determined to be owned by Havre Distributors, led to the discovery that a red pickup truck with a sprayer in the back had been removed from the property. Martin proceeded to Baltrusch Construction's parking lot, where the red truck “was found in the exact location where Baltrusch's 18 wheeler went missing, with the keys to the white van still inside,” according to the charging document. Marshall was charged with theft for taking each of the three vehicles.