New Kent Charles City Chronicle

News for New Kent County and Charles City County, Virginia | May 29, 2017

Virginia Beach teen pleads guilty to five charges after high speed chase in New Kent

By Andre Jones | April 15, 2017 11:48 am

A Virginia Beach teenager who led a variety of police departments on a high-speed chase through New Kent elected to accept a plea agreement on Apr. 14 during New Kent Circuit Court proceedings.

Morris Von Westlove II, 18, entered guilty pleas to two counts of felony destruction of property, one count of felony eluding, a single count of obtaining a credit card without permission, and an amended charge of assault and battery on a law enforcement officer (originally attempted capital murder). Two charges of felony destruction of property, two charges of misdemeanor reckless driving, and one charge of misdemeanor trespassing were dropped.

In a summary of evidence provided by Commonwealth’s Attorney Linwood Gregory, last Nov. 3 a New Kent deputy was monitoring traffic at mile marker 212 along Interstate 64 eastbound when a mid-size SUV traveling at 94 miles per hour entered through his radar. As the deputy pulled out to initiate the traffic stop, the vehicle accelerated, resulting in a chase that reached speeds as high as 105 miles per hour. A second deputy joined the pursuit at the 216 mile marker to slow the vehicle down.

The chase continued as the driver, later identified as Westlove, exited at the West Point interchange (exit 220) onto Route 33 eastbound. As the defendant approached the intersection of Route 33 and Route 30/249, a deputy had deployed spike strips in that area and successfully punctured one of the front tires.

But instead of pulling over, the vehicle continued, making a U-turn at a crossover and traveling westbound on Route 33. The defendant returned to the intersection and made a right onto Route 249 westbound. The effects of the spike strip set in as the chase speed had decreased around 25-40 miles per hour, according to Gregory.

Video evidence of the pursuit played in court showed the black SUV driving on Pamunkey Church Road, crossing through backyards, down a dirt path, and eventually making its way back onto Route 249, this time traveling eastbound. After passing through the Route 33 and Route 30/249 intersection for a third time, Westlove made a right turn into the Dominion Power substation prior to reaching the entrance of Henrico Jail East. The truck plowed through a gate and into the substation and deputies temporarily halted the chase for safety concerns. After crashing through some electrical equipment, the truck returned heading towards the police vehicles as they blocked the entrance.

One deputy had drawn his weapon and aimed at the defendant, but leapt out the vehicle’s path. The SUV hit the gate, causing it to crash down on the deputies’ vehicles and disabling them.

Westlove resumed traveling east on Route 30, eventually entering into James City County. After driving through one subdivision, he made his way to Stonehouse and began driving on a hillside. One deputy successfully performed a PIT maneuver to spin the black truck out and pin it against a fence, bringing the hour-long chase to a halt. The defendant was searched and found with a credit card belonging to Pamela Weeks of Powhatan. Another discovery made by officers was that the SUV was also stolen out of Powhatan.

After the summary of evidence and video of the chase played, Judge B. Elliott Bondurant lashed out at the defendant, disgusted with his actions.

“You’re a very lucky man. This video is disturbing,” Bondurant said. “My wife drove these roads for 20 years every day to work.

“I don’t care what time of day it is, you drove on the wrong side of the road,” the judge continued, pointing out video evidence of Westlove’s actions on Route 249.

“That’s despicable!” Bondurant said. “I don’t know how many people you could have killed that night. I don’t know if you truly get it. Do you realize how many people you put in danger? Do you think this was a joyride?”

Bondurant made it clear that he didn’t know whether to accept the terms of the plea deal. Gregory and defense attorney Martin Mooradian both advised the judge of the defendant’s background as a child and how it possibly played a role in his actions.

“He was a runaway when he was picked up on this,” Gregory said. “He was disowned by his mother by the age of 11 and left with his grandparents, attempted to live with his father but had an issue with his father’s girlfriend at that time.

“When foster care learned about that situation, they attempted to place him into another home and not with his grandparents and that’s when he ran away,” the Commonwealth’s Attorney added. “He was on the streets for two months when these events occurred.”

While sentencing guidelines calls for a sentence range of 10 months to two years, two months, both Gregory and Mooradian provided two options in the plea agreement. Westlove will be evaluated for 60 days to see if he qualifies for the Youthful Offender program at Indian Creek Correctional Center. If he does meet the standards, he will receive a four-year sentence into that program. If Westlove is deemed not suitable, he will be sentenced to the Juvenile Justice Correctional Center until the age of 21, roughly a three-year sentence. If the latter of the choices is applied, he will receive five-year sentences on each of the felony charges with all time suspended. The defendant must also pay $25,952.74 in restitution for damages to the police cars, the stolen SUV, and damage to property belonging to Dominion Power.

Formal sentencing for Westlove is scheduled for June 12.