Year in jail for wheelman who led Penticton police on a chase

Darryn Allen Nelson, 41, pleaded guilty to flight from a peace officer and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.

The wheelman who led police on a chase through icy, snowy roads in the Twin Lakes area is remaining in jail until the end of the year.

Darryn Allen Nelson, 41, pleaded guilty to flight from a peace officer and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle as well as a breach of recognizance Monday in Penticton Provincial Court.

Nelson was sentenced to 11 months in custody, minus time served since his arrest, leaving just under six months remaining.

Multiple residents on Twin Lakes Road had called police on the morning of Dec. 23, 2015 reporting break-ins at their residences. Around 9:30 a.m. an officer investigating one break and enter was waved down by a woman who said her house had just been broken into as well. Another officer in the area noticed a black Mitsubishi Lancer with no front or rear license plates travelling north when a blue pick-up pulled up behind, with a man yelling at the occupants of the Lancer, alleging they had attempted to break in to his property moments prior.

The officer began following the Lancer at a fast pace along Twin Lakes Road eventually losing sight of it. Police alerted to the vehicle later found it and recognized the driver, Nelson, from previous encounters. A chase ensued on snow-covered, icy roads at speeds of approximately 60 km/h. The Lancer performed multiple U-turns upon seeing squad cars and at one point an officer had to pull to the shoulder to avoid a head-on collision with the Lancer. RCMP determined the vehicle was a danger to public safety and set up a road block with a spike belt at the intersection of Highway 97 and White Lake Road.

The owners of a residence on Saddlehorn Drive had called 911 advising that a vehicle had been ditched and the occupants took off on foot.

Police followed a set of footprints left behind up a hill where they found Nelson crouching down on a steep embankment.

“Nelson then made a spontaneous comment (to police) advising that someone had just rolled their cars and he got a call to pick them up and that he didn’t do a B and E,” said Ann Lerchs, Crown counsel.

Crown did not alleged Nelson was involved in any of the property crimes, which Derek John Ledgard, 22, pleaded guilty to in May, receiving 14 months in jail for one count of theft over $5,000 and one count of possession of stolen property under $5,000.

Co-accused Chelsea Anne Thorstenson, 28, pleaded guilty to a breach of recognizance landing her 30 days in jail and nine months probation and Brian William Cooper received 45 days in jail for a breach of recognizance as well. Cooper and Nelson are both set to attend trial on July 12 according to court documents online

“Although the Crown is not, I want to be very clear, is not alleging you had any involvement in aiding or assisting these other individuals in property-related crimes, you were aiding them with the belief that they to needed to get away from the police for some particular reason. I see that as an aggravating factor,” Judge Koturbash said while handing down Nelson’s sentence. “Fleeing from the police can put people’s lives in danger, you just don’t do it.”

Nelson was on bail at the time of the offences with conditions not to be outside of Penticton Indian Band land.

Nelson’s defence counsel, Norm Yates, asked for a sentence of time served, Nelson has been in custody since his December, 2015 arrest, and was convicted of obstructing a peace officer in an unrelated incident in May, 2015, for which he was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Nelson has a prior record for driving offences, and Crown noted the dangers of the lengthy road chase in icy conditions as an aggravating factor in sentencing.

Nelson, who grew up in Manitoba and moved to the Penticton area in 2011, pleaded guilty some time after the incident because of the indication from Crown that there was further evidence linking him to the alleged property offences.

“He intended to (plead guilty) early on, his resistance to doing so was that he was also charged with property offences,” Yates said. “The Crown, being the police agency, kept saying they had some forensic evidence that was significant to their investigation on the property related offences. That evidence never materialized.”

Nelson received a driving prohibition for three years.