Laurel woman to serve two years for assault on peace officer

By: 
Marlo Pronovost
SCN Editor
Erica Pearce

A Laurel woman will serve two years with the Montana Department of Corrections for intentionally driving towards a sheriff’s deputy during a multi-county high speed chase last spring.

Erica Pearce, 34, was sentenced last Friday by 22nd Judicial District Judge Blair Jones on felony counts of assault on a peace officer, criminal endangerment, forgery and criminal possession of dangerous drugs — all stemming from the April 11 incident.

Her sentence amounts to a 10-year DOC commitment with all but two years suspended. The two years satisfy the mandatory minimum sentence that must be imposed upon conviction of assault of a peace officer.

Pearce will receive credit for approximately 150 days served since her arrest. She will also be responsible for $742.97 in restitution to two Columbus businesses where she and co-defendant fraudulently obtained merchandise.

Pearce has two prior felony convictions — drug possession and deceptive practices in Yellowstone County, according to DOC’s Correctional Offender Network

Jones said the sentence holds Pearce accountable for her actions, offers rehabilitation and provides a measure of community protection through her incarceration and probation.

 

The case

On April 11 at 6:50 p.m., Stillwater County Sheriff’s Sgt. Randy Smith saw Pearce at the Columbus Town Pump, and recognized her from contact the previous day in which he had discovered she did not have a valid driver’s license, according to court documents.

After watching Pearce get into the truck, drive away and fail to stop at a stop sign, he attempted to pull her over. A chase ensued down Ninth Ave., Pike Ave. and onto Highway 78 with speeds ranging between 45 mph and 85 miles per hour, according to court documents.

Pearce’s vehicle hit a set of spike strips deployed by a deputy on Highway 78, successfully “taking out the driver’s side rear tire,” according to court documents. 

Pearce continued through Absarokee at 70 mph, with several pedestrians on the sidewalk that were “put in danger by the way the vehicle was driving,” according to court documents.

Smith continued the pursuit on toward Red Lodge. The chase entered Carbon County where a Deputy Jeremy Neibauer was waiting with a second set of spike strips. Smith watched as Pearce drove into the opposite lane of traffic towards Neibauer, prompting the deputy to run into the ditch to avoid getting hit. Neibauer was able to deploy a set of spike strips, which deflated two more tires, and the chase ended approximately one mile later, according to court documents.

Neibauer told Smith that “he thought he was going to get hit” by Pearce.

Pearce refused to say anything without an attorney present, but Perryman provided both of their names. Smith noticed several bags of groceries in the vehicle as well as what appeared to be suitcases, cell phones, bags and other items. 

A Stillwater County deputy was able to find several pieces of paper that had been thrown out of the vehicle during the chase and determined them to be several pieces of checks believed to have been stolen. Also recovered were a Montana male’s driver’s license, credit card and what appeared to be different Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers, according to court documents.

After obtaining a search warrant for the truck, Smith found substances that tested positive for heroin and methamphetamine, as well as several syringes.

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