Police light

Thomas George Wothe, 72, of Stevensville was arrested Monday after allegedly forcing a woman and her child to dive off the side of a one-lane road to avoid being struck by the vehicle he was driving at a high rate of speed.

Wothe appeared Tuesday before Ravalli County Justice Jennifer Ray on two felony counts of criminal endangerment and misdemeanor charges of driving while under the influence and reckless driving.

According to Deputy County Attorney Angela Wetzsteon’s charging affidavit, a woman, her 4-year-old and their dog were walking down to the bus stop from their residence on Burro Lane at about 4 p.m. when they noticed a vehicle approaching them at about 50 to 60 mph.

Burro Lane is a one-lane unpaved road.

As the vehicle approached them, the woman said she noticed that it wasn’t slowing down or moving over to the side of the roadway.

The woman told the sheriff’s deputy that she grabbed her child and dove off the side of the roadway to avoid being struck by the vehicle. A neighbor identified the vehicle as one allegedly driven by Wothe.

Upon arriving at Wothe’s residence, the deputy noted there was a vehicle there that matched the description of the one that was driving erratically.

When the deputy made contact with Wothe, the man told him he had been sleeping.

The affidavit said Wothe “appeared disheveled and his pants were not fully pulled up and his zipper was open. (Wothe) was obviously intoxicated as his eyes were bloodshot and watery.”

The deputy noted the “strong odor” of alcoholic beverage coming from Wothe’s breath and said there was a significant delay in coming up with answers for questions asked of him.

The affidavit said Wothe admitted that he had just been driving and had seen the woman, child and dog on the road, but didn’t think he was going very fast. He initially claimed he had not been drinking, but then said something about having two shots earlier, according to the affidavit. He was unclear about when and where he had the shots.

Wothe was unable to complete the standard field sobriety test. An initial breath sample resulted in a .188 BrAC. In Montana, a person is considered impaired with a .08 blood alcohol content.

Ray set bail at $5,000 with a requirement that Wothe be monitored for alcohol use.


Associate Editor

Reporter for The Ravalli Republic.