W.Va. man is charged following pursuit

July 08, 2003|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Pennsylvania State Police trooper whose cruiser was rammed Monday morning in a high-speed chase that went from Interstate 81 to the back roads of Franklin County, Pa., later found the people he believed were in the pickup truck being pursued working at a fruit stand in Berkeley County, W.Va.

Darren Duane Urzich, 38, of 154 Plaza Court in Martinsburg, W.Va., was charged with aggravated assault against a police officer, theft, fleeing or eluding police, recklessly endangering another person, criminal conspiracy and reckless driving, according to the affidavit of probable cause filed at District Justice Larry Meminger's office.

As of Monday afternoon, officers had not filed charges against two people who were with Urzich - a 33-year-old woman and a 14-year-old boy, police said.


West Virginia State Trooper J.D. Burkhart said Urzich was arrested on a fugitive warrant and arraigned before a circuit court judge, who set his bail at $100,000. He waived extradition and was returned to Franklin County, Pa., Burkhart said.

Trooper Stanford Sydnor, the officer whose cruiser was rammed twice during the pursuit, said he found the three people he thought had been the occupants of the pickup truck at a fruit stand near Falling Waters, W.Va.

Sydnor said Urzich is scheduled for a July 17 preliminary hearing in Frederick County, Md., on charges of stealing a lawn tractor from a Lowe's store.

Monday's chase began at 6:40 a.m. when the manager of Tractor Supply Co. at 1695 Lincoln Way East arrived at work and saw a red and black pickup truck and a trailer backed up to the front of the store. Two males were pushing a lawn tractor onto the trailer as a woman stood by, according to the affidavit.

The three drove west on U.S. 30 and the manager called police, according to the affidavit. Troopers Ronald Taylor and Michael Taylor began chasing the pickup truck, according to the affidavit.

Sydnor was heading east on U.S. 30 in a police car when the truck and cruisers passed him. He turned around and joined the chase onto southbound I-81.

The affidavit stated the driver of the pickup swerved the vehicle from side to side to keep the police cars from boxing it in. North of Exit 10 near Marion, Pa., the truck twice sideswiped Sydnor's cruiser, Sydnor said.

The truck then went off the highway down an embankment and onto Angle Road.

"He goes off 81, with the pickup, the trailer and the lawn mower and doesn't lose any of them," Sydnor said. Sydnor also drove onto Angle Road and followed the pickup onto Clay Hill Road.

During the pursuit, Sydnor said the boy got out of the cab of the truck, climbed into the bed and unhitched the trailer while the truck was going about 80 mph. The trailer and tractor rolled into a yard and overturned, Sydnor said.

Sydnor said he lost sight of the truck and police began a ground and air search in the area. The truck was found abandoned with a blown tire and information about the owner, he said.

During the search, Sydnor said he returned to a house he had been to earlier when no one was home. A woman there told him she had driven to West Virginia three people who told her their vehicle broke down.

The woman told Sydnor where she dropped them off and Sydnor stopped there while on his way to confer with West Virginia State Police.

There he found three people working at the fruit stand. Sydnor said they asked the owner if they could work at the stand because they needed rent money.

"There was a lot of luck involved," Sydnor said. That included not rolling his vehicle when he left the interstate and finding the woman who gave three people a ride, he said.

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