The man arrested after a chase with deputies and a nearly four-hour search of East Missoula on Tuesday made his first court appearance Thursday in Missoula County Justice Court.
William Dale Newhoff, 35, faces a litany of felony charges including criminal endangerment, criminal mischief, burglary and two counts of theft.
Acting Justice of the Peace Matt Erekson set Newhoff’s bail at $150,000.
A court affidavit filed against Newhoff said that in early January, the owner of a Missoula nursery reported that someone had cut the lock off a gate and stolen two trucks. Days later, a woman in Billings contacted the nursery owner, saying she had a tablet from tenants she'd evicted that showed messages between Newhoff and another man about the stolen trucks.
On Tuesday, a detective saw one of the stolen trucks outside the Aspen Motel in East Missoula. After he called for more officers, he saw Newhoff run out of a room at the motel, get in the truck, and drive away.
During the subsequent chase through East Missoula, Newhoff drove through a church parking lot, over a snowbank and through a fence before hitting a home on Dakota Avenue and going through the yard. Officers eventually caught up to the truck after it crashed into a tree near a mobile home park on Speedway Avenue.
A bystander told the officers Newhoff, holding a handgun, ran away.
A subsequent search of the mobile home park by officers of the sheriff’s special response team and K-9 unit found Newhoff inside one of the trailers, holding a pistol, court records said.
Newhoff eventually dropped the weapon but asked the officer to “just shoot me,” according to court documents. Deputies were able to arrest him.
In an interview with a detective, Newhoff allegedly said he didn’t know the truck was stolen, but that he knew law enforcement was looking for him. According to court documents, he said he and his girlfriend had planned to get into a shootout with officers, but went in different directions when they left the motel.
He said he was facing life in prison and would rather die, and that he wanted to commit “suicide by cop” when he was found in the trailer.
Newhoff is also being held on a federal warrant for probation violations.
He has a significant criminal history including theft, burglary and forgery convictions in Missoula. In 2009 he escaped from the Mineral County jail only to be re-arrested days later, and has federal convictions for being a felon with a firearm from a 2007 incident where he stole a gun from a Missoula home.
Carrie Medley Newhoff, who said she was Newhoff’s wife, said after Thursday’s court appearance that “my husband’s not a monster."
She said she was in the East Missoula motel and that the alleged plan to get in a shootout with officers wasn’t “exactly” what her and her husband had been talking about but that “if it was going to come down to it then yes, we would do it together.”
She said she had late-stage cancer and that Newhoff — with whom she'd been involved for a year — did not want to live without her.
“My husband acted on faith and love, not because he was on drugs, not because he was drunk, not because he just wanted to be a criminal,” she said.