CLEARFIELD – A man accused of leading state police on a 19.5-mile, high-speed chase waived his right to a preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Judge Richard Ireland during Centralized Court on Wednesday at the Clearfield County Jail.
Chad Andrew Schwartz, 41, of Curwensville has been charged with fleeing or attempting to elude an officer; use/possession of drug paraphernalia (two counts.); theft by unlawful taking; receiving stolen property; unauthorized transfer or use of registration; driving while operating privilege is suspended or revoked; traffic-control signals; meeting vehicle proceeding in opposite direction; overtaking vehicle on the right; limitations on overtaking on the left; driving on roadways laned for traffic (50 counts); driving on divided highways; stop signs and yield signs (three counts); driving on roadways laned for traffic (26 counts); turning movements and required signals (seven counts); driving vehicle at a safe speed; maximum speed limits; limitations on backing (two counts); careless driving; reckless driving; general lighting requirements; failure to use safety belt; operation of vehicle without official certificate of inspection; and violation of use of certificate of inspection.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, on Sept. 19, Trooper Dennis Peters was on routine patrol traveling southbound on state Route 879 near the Park Avenue on-ramp in Lawrence Township. He observed the operator of a tan-colored Dodge Neon pass by in the opposite direction with blacked out tail lights. When conducting a U-turn Peters observed the operator of the suspect vehicle change lanes and rapidly gain speed and pass others in an attempt to flee.
Peters activated his emergency lights and siren and attempted to close in on the suspect vehicle to conduct a traffic stop. However, the operator continued to travel north and exited at the Clearfield Mall ramp and proceeded to the bottom, where he went through a steady red light and made a left-hand turn onto U.S. Route 322 westbound. The operator traveled west and turned left at the next light onto Cemetery Road.
At that point, the operator traveled off the right-hand side of the roadway, passed the vehicle ahead and continued westbound. During the chase, the operator traveled at speeds in excess of 110 miles per hour, crossed into oncoming lanes, forced others off the roadway, backed up on the roadway, traveled through stop signs/lights, failed to use turn signals and traveled in a careless and reckless manner.
Peters also observed a broken brake light and blacked out tail lights. During the chase, he was eventually positioned next to the suspect vehicle to identify its operator. At this time, he observed that the operator wasn’t wearing his seatbelt. Peters continued to pursue the operator for 19.5 miles and until he stopped when the suspect vehicle shutdown due to apparent mechanical failures on Zion Road in Knox Township.
Peters indicated that the registration plate attached to the suspect vehicle was registered to a 2000 Ford and expired as of January. Further, he checked the suspect vehicle’s identification number, which showed a 2002 Dodge Neon, and what should have been displayed on the Pennsylvania registration. He also observed the correct date on the registration sticker to be January; however, a second one was stuck in front to show a November date. He observed where the inspection sticker had been altered from May to display December. Inside the vehicle, Peters noted a large amount of items, such as glasses, a keychain and necklaces, which would have obstructed the operator’s view.
Peters identified Schwartz as the operator of the suspect vehicle. He was restrained in handcuffs and placed inside the patrol vehicle. When asked, Schwartz related he didn’t have anything illegal inside his vehicle and consented to a search. During the search, Peters found two, silver cylinders, and the larger one contained several flakes of suspected marijuana and a strong odor of it. The smaller cylinder contained a white powdery residue that was inadequate for field testing. Peters also found a plastic smoking device that was concealed inside a wooden holder, which also had a strong odor of marijuana.
Schwartz was transported to the CCJ. While en route, Peters asked a corporal who was still at the scene to remove the registration plate from the suspect vehicle, as it wasn’t registered to the Dodge Neon. Schwartz observed this message and related he had gotten the registration plate out of a box when helping a friend move or something. He told Peters he put a sticker on it and then put it on the Dodge Neon. Schwartz indicated the owner of the registration plate didn’t know about it and had nothing to do with it.
On Sept. 21, Peters spoke with the owner of the registration plate. The owner related she had neither given it to anyone nor given anyone permission to use it.