Cass jury convicts reckless driver

Published 7:48 pm Thursday, July 15, 2004

By Staff
CASSOPOLIS -- On Nov. 14, 2003, a local man used the streets of Dowagiac for his own high-speed amusement.
On July 13, a Cass County jury took 25 minutes to return a verdict of guilty as charged on all counts against Decatur resident Peter Starrett, 23, of 300 N. George St., for charges stemming from a police chase that led through the City of Dowagiac and concluded with the apprehension of Starrett in a wooded rural area on Nov. 14, 2003, according to Prosecutor Victor A. Fitz.
Chief Assistant Prosecutor Jason Ronning tried the case in front of Circuit Judge Michael E. Dodge.
During the crime Starrett led police on a vehicle chase reaching speeds of 75 mph -- parts of which took place within a Dowagiac residential area.
Starrett ignored the Cass County sheriff's deputies' orders to pull over and was stoped when his vehicle entered a deep puddle while fleeing through the woods outside of Dowagiac.
Starrett then fled the scene on foot and was captured by Cass County sheriff's deputies after a short foot chase, according to Fitz. Starrett continued to resist at that time, which along with his fleeing on foot, led to the felony charges of resisting and obstructing a police officer.
Upon further investigation, it was learned that Starrett did not have a valid Michigan driver's license, and that inside his vehicle deputies discovered a number of beer cans, including one open can with beer still inside.
In response to the verdict, Fitz said, "The citizens of Dowagiac were endangered by these reckless acts. "We are fortunate that a child or other citizen was not hit or killed."
Fitz also indicated that a traffic stop is not a game where people can run and fight with the police. "Their job is tough enough as it is," he said. "They have families and lives, just like the rest of us."
Starrett was charged with fleeing eluding in the third degree, resisting and obstructing a police officer -- both felonies -- and driving while license suspended and transporting an open intoxicating liquor -- both misdemeanors.
Starrett, convicted on all four counts, faces up to five years in prison. He is currently incarcerated pending sentencing by Dodge on Sept. 17.