By Judy Reed
A Cedar Springs man that led police in Montana on a high-speed chase in a stolen car earlier this year was sentenced last week and will serve two years in Montana State Prison.
Nathaniel James Purdy, 28, of Cedar Springs, pled guilty to one count of felony Criminal Endangerment, one count of felony Assault on a Peace Officer and one misdemeanor count of fleeing and eluding. Under the plea agreement, the Stillwater County Attorney’s office recommended that Purdy be sentenced to five years with three years suspended. He was also given credit for time served, 260 days.
The saga started with a car that was stolen from a Cedar Springs gas station. According to Cedar Springs Police Chief Roger Parent, a 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix was stolen from the Admiral Gas Station at 194 S. Main in Cedar Springs, about 8:45 p.m. January 2. The 43-year-old female driver left it running while she went inside to pay for gas. Surveillance footage shows a short, stocky person wearing a hooded sweatshirt and baggy clothing get into the car and drive away. Police say it appeared to be a smaller size female.
Two days later, on January 4, the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Department in Montana arrested Nathaniel James Purdy, 28, of Cedar Springs, after a high-speed chase topping 100 mph. According to the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office, a deputy located the stolen vehicle about 10:15 a.m., after it was involved in a gas theft in Billings, Montana. The deputy attempted to stop the vehicle in the Park City area of I-90, but the driver fled, leading the deputy and two highway patrol troopers on the high-speed chase. As they neared Columbus, Montana, Sheriff’s deputies and the Columbus Police Department put down spike strips, but Purdy still refused to stop, and exited into the town of Columbus. Purdy’s damaged tires gave out when he turned down an alley and he crashed into a building. He then fled on foot, but police pursued him and ordered him to the ground at gunpoint about 50 feet away from where he had crashed.
The Stillwater County News reported on the sentencing.
“You put a community I care about at risk. You put people I care about at risk,” said District Court Judge Blair Jones.
Jones also sought input from two of the lawmen involved in the chase who happened to be in the courtroom. The Chief Deputy of Stillwater County, Nancy Rohde, told Jones that neither deputy wished to talk, so she spoke on their behalf. Rohde herself became emotional when describing the fear law enforcement experienced that day.
“My undersheriff felt like he was not going to see his grandkids again, like he was not going to see his wife again,” said Rohde, her voice breaking.
Undersheriff Woody Claunch was the victim of the Assault on a Peace Officer charge, stemming from Purdy driving directly at him while on Pike Avenue.
Purdy apologized to everyone involved and told Jones he accepted and respected whatever sentence he was given.
“There’s no excuse. I’m glad no one got hurt,” said Purdy.
Defense attorney Paskell said Purdy has “metamorphosed” during his time in jail—transforming himself from an “urban city gang-banger” to a young man who is now sober and trying to live his life right. Purdy is one test away from getting his GED and scored exceptionally high on the reading portion. He also has plans to enroll in the University of Montana’s culinary school.
Probation officer Steve Hurd cautioned against Purdy being given too much credit for being clean and sober during the past 260 days.
“I’m not a huge fan of incarcerated sobriety,” said Hurd.
Jones asked Purdy what would be different about this go around. He previously served a prison sentence in Michigan and had been off probation for just two months before the Columbus chase. Purdy said his surroundings were different and the bad influences that seemed to drag him into things that weren’t in Montana.
Jones cautioned that Missoula was a community with “rampant drug use” and plenty of trouble. Purdy acknowledged that and said his faith was the big difference in his life now.
“I have faith that God is going to work miracles in my life,” said Purdy.
Purdy has not been charged in connection to the vehicle being stolen. Anyone with info on the original theft of the auto should contact the Cedar Springs Police Department at 696-1311.
Thanks to Marlo Provonost, of the Stillwater County News, for her contribution to this story.