Justice of the Peace Karen Orzech set a $50,000 bail for a Missoula woman who attempted to steal a semitrailer from the Walmart parking lot Sunday afternoon.

Mary Ann Wittenberg, 50, also allegedly damaged the exterior of a Missoula County home Friday night by kicking the door repeatedly. Wittenberg told witnesses she was attempting to locate her daughter, who is currently in the care of Child and Family Services.

When Orzech asked the prosecution Monday if Wittenberg was under the influence of alcohol during the string of crimes, Deputy Missoula County Attorney Jason Marks said he was unsure.

“Well, that’s an important piece of information that’s missing from the court,” she said before issuing the high bond.

According to the affidavit, Wittenberg began kicking the door of a 37th Avenue residence and was confronted by several witnesses — one of whom was able to snap a photograph of the woman as she fled.

The home’s resident said she knows Wittenberg from several prior interactions and asked police to pursue criminal charges against her.

Wittenberg flashed on the law enforcement’s radar just two days later when she apparently wanted to make a getaway in a tractor-trailer.

According to an alleged victim who was sitting in the semitrailer, Wittenberg hopped into the driver’s seat and pushed the woman out of the passenger side door.

But the defendant was unsuccessful in her attempt to drive away.

“Wittenburg (sic) then started the truck and attempted to drive off, but when she tried shifting the vehicle into gear, she stalled the motor,” the affidavit stated.

Missoula police eventually found the woman in the Rocky Mountain Lines parking lot south of Walmart, where she was allegedly sitting in a “large blue International semi-truck.”

When Wittenberg saw Cpl. J.C. Denton coming toward her, she exited the truck, but she refused to be taken into custody. According to the affidavit, Wittenberg tensed her arms and held them firmly against her body while screaming “No.”

Denton took Wittenberg to the ground, where he had to “physically pry and force” the woman’s arms behind her in order to handcuff her.

On Monday, Marks told the court Wittenberg continues to make threatening phone calls from the Missoula County jail to people involved in the case. He also noted that she has a criminal record that includes child endangerment and resisting arrest.

He asked Orzech to set bail at $100,000.

But public defender Katie Green asked Orzech to release the woman on her own recognizance, arguing the woman is not a flight risk. She said Wittenberg is self-employed and has a daughter who is 9 years old and currently in CFS custody.

Wittneberg faces five criminal charges, including a felony charge of theft for attempting to steal the semitrailer, and four misdemeanor charges.

Her preliminary hearing is set for April 8 at 4 p.m.

Reporter Kathryn Haake can be reached at 523-5268 or at kate.haake@missoulian.com.

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(2) comments

TourGuide
TourGuide

I know this lady- she is the one that often stands on the corner of Broadway and Russel with the signs... Looks like she will be going to jail and will finally be getting mental health care.

walter12
walter12

Come on people, this woman is a danger to anyone around her and to herself, and she is obviously very ill. She is also costing the taxpayer alot of money.

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