Judge sets date for Purtell

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

General District Court Judge G. Blair Harry, through closed circuit television Wednesday, advised the man who police charged with a carjacking that he would see him Dec. 15 in the courtroom.

William J. Purtell, of the 500 block of Hollywood Avenue, faces several felony and misdemeanor charges in a Monday morning carjacking and abduction that wound up injuring three innocent motorists. Driving on a suspended license, Purtell also did $12,000 in damages to the three vehicles involved.

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After a vehicular chase and finally running Purtell down on foot, police charged him with two counts of grand larceny, four counts of eluding police, three counts of hit and run, driving on a suspended license, reckless driving, and abduction.

Purtell was charged by Suffolk Police Detective Joyce L. Williams after he crashed a Cadillac he’d allegedly stolen from its parking space on Holladay Street. The owner of the vehicle, John Parker, was doing business with the Division of Motor Vehicles. Parker had left his teen-aged son in the back seat of the vehicle, and Purtell dumped the youth out near the DMV.

After ridding himself of the passenger, Purtell proceeded to Market Street, driving directly past the police department, but it took only two minutes for authorities to spot the car as he drove along Saratoga Street to Hall Avenue. The chase then continued to East Washington Street, and at the Norfolk & Western Railroad overpass in the Hollywood neighborhood, Purtell was behind another vehicle as he attempted his getaway. When he tried to pass a vehicle in front of him, he swerved into the westbound lane and slammed into a 2000 Honda driven by Virginia Leigh Engle of Babbtown Road as she attempted to drive through the tunnel.

The impact of the crash sent the Honda spinning out of control and it slammed into the concrete pier of the overpass, as Purtell continued eastbound to careen into a 1989 Ford pickup truck driven by Wesley C.E. Meeks of Ohio.

After crashing the Meeks pickup, Purtell jumped from the Cadillac and was captured by police as he fled on foot.

Meeks and his wife, Belinda, were slightly injured and three people in the Honda were sent to hospitals because of injuries sustained in the crash.

Purtell also suffered minor facial cuts from glass.

Purtell was not brought to general district court, but instead looked at the judge through a television monitor mounted in a cubicle for that purpose at Western Tidewater Regional Jail.

Modern technology allows the Commonwealth to deal with prisoners who have not posted bail in this manner to save taxpayers the cost of transportation to and from the Godwin Courts Building.

In the courtroom, Judge Harry spoke with Purtell as others involved in trial matters watched the television monitor. The judge asked if he could afford a lawyer, and after Purtell said he couldn’t, Harry assigned former assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Joanne Spencer to serve as his attorney. Spencer is now in private practice, and she will represent Purtell when he actually comes to court on Dec. 15.