Buckhannon man charged with child neglect following police chase

BUCKHANNON – A Buckhannon man who led police on a high-speed chase through two counties in mid-November – allegedly endangering the life of a 16-year-old minor in the process – remained in the Central Regional Jail Sunday on a $60,000 bond.

Joseph Bevans, 27, was charged with four offenses following an incident that allegedly happened on Sunday, Nov. 18: gross child neglect creating risk of injury, a felony; fleeing from an officer in a vehicle with reckless disregard, a felony; fleeing with driving under the influence, a felony; and driving while under the influence of a controlled substance, marijuana, a misdemeanor.

Bevans was ultimately apprehended and arrested in Lewis County following the incident and has been lodged in the Central Regional Jail since the early morning of Nov. 19.

According to the complaints filed in the Upshur County Magistrate Clerk’s office, the chase originated in Upshur County on Route 20 South when the investigating officer, Deputy Tyler Gordon with the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office, spotted a white Mercury Mountaineer traveling south on Route 20 in French Creek on Sunday, Nov. 18.

Gordon confirmed through the 911 Upshur Communication Center that the vehicle’s license plate matched a stolen license plate that had been reported to the Comm Center earlier in the day as having belonged to a person with a Dodge Ram pick-up truck.

Given that information, Gordon tried to initiate a traffic stop, but the driver, later identified as Bevans, failed pull over after the deputy had activated both his blue lights and sirens, according to the file.

“The vehicle continued to flee, traveling over 70 miles per hour in a marked 40-mile-per-hour zone,” Gordon wrote. “The vehicle swerved and drifted from the right-hand white line into the opposing lane of traffic, across the left-hand white line straddling the center line, and driving extremely recklessly.”

Gordon’s complaint went on to say that Bevans allegedly continued to drive in the same careless manner – reaching speeds upwards of 90 mph – through Rock Cave and turned onto Route 4, continuing to head south.

Bevans allegedly drove in both lanes and would veer off the road to the left when going around blind curves, according to the file.

“If the suspect vehicle had met another vehicle in the opposing direction, in one of those curves, a collision with an innocent motorist would’ve been imminent,” Gordon wrote.

The Mercury Mountaineer headed into Lewis County, where Bevans allegedly struck a whitetail deer that was trying to cross the road. He then made a right on Route 19 in Lewis County, the file says.

Eventually, the vehicle’s engine began to emit smoke, and at that point, Bevans allegedly pulled off on the left side of the road.

He and one passenger, a 16-year-old juvenile, fled on foot, but assisting officer Sr. Trooper P.J. Robinette with the Buckhannon detachment of the West Virginia State Police was able to apprehend Bevans. Gordon caught the 16-year-old juvenile, the complaint states.

When Gordon interviewed both the juvenile and another adult passenger, Lynda Childress, both passengers described themselves as “unwilling participants” in the vehicle chase.

Through his investigation, Gordon learned that the father of the 16-year-old male had temporarily placed the juvenile in the care of Bevans earlier in the evening, making Bevans the temporary custodian of the juvenile.

Childress said both she and the 16-year-old had urged Bevans to pull over during the chase because they were afraid.

Another complaint charging Bevans with fleeing while driving under the influence alleges that when Gordon apprehended Bevans, he appeared to be under the influence of marijuana.

Gordon reported Bevans had a “raspy voice,” slowed response time to the deputy’s questions and appeared disoriented. Bevans also had red, watery eyes and drooping eyelids, according to the file.

“The defendant was unsteady, lethargic and uncoordinated while both walking and standing,” the officer wrote, noting Bevans refused to undergo a field sobriety test.

Based on those observations, the presence of the odor of marijuana, statements from the two passengers and Bevans’ “extremely erratic driving,” Gordon concluded Bevans had been driving under the influence of marijuana.

Although he wasn’t involved in a wreck during the chase, Lewis County EMS transported Bevans to Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital for treatment; Lewis County law enforcement then obtained a search warrant, which permitted them to obtain a blood sample from Bevans for the purpose of a toxicology analysis.

Magistrate Roger Clem Jr. arraigned Bevans in Lewis County, and his bond is set at $60,000 – $35,000 cash only and $20,000 cash or surety.

The penalty for a conviction of child neglect creating risk of injury, a felony, is a fine between $1,000 and $3,000, imprisonment in a state correctional facility for one to five years, or both.

The penalty for a guilty verdict on the fleeing from an officer with reckless indifference charge, a felony, is a fine ranging between $1,000 and $2,000 and imprisonment for one to five years.

Additionally, the penalty for a conviction of fleeing or attempting to flee from law enforcement while under the influence, also a felony, is confinement in a state correctional facility for three to 10 years.

Finally, the penalty for a guilty verdict on the DUI charge, a misdemeanor, is confinement in jail for a term that could vary from one day up to six months and a fine between $100 and $500.

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