By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Atmore police recovered a stolen vehicle and arrested three people on various charges after a December 16 incident that included a high-speed chase along rural roads and on traffic-heavy Interstate 65.
Chief Chuck Brooks said this week that the person believed to have stolen the vehicle, along with the person authorities believe was waiting to take possession of it, were taken into custody. A woman who was in the stolen car was also arrested but on charges unrelated to the theft.
Brooks said the first installment of the mini drama started when local law enforcement got a call that a Chevy Tahoe had run into a farm field and gotten stuck.
“We were called to the 4000 block of Robinsonville Road, where the caller said a vehicle was stuck in a field,” the police chief reported. “A white female who was standing beside the vehicle told officers that she had experienced mechanical problems and could not stop.”
As police worked to help the stranded motorist, they discovered that (a) the vehicle had been reported stolen out of Byrneville, Fla., (b) there was also a man inside the car who was wanted in Baldwin County, (c) the woman was wanted by the local sheriff’s office on an outstanding warrant, and (d) still another man had been in the area but had vacated the scene before police arrived.
“Due to the vehicle being stolen, we called in a dog team from the department of corrections, and a perimeter was set up,” Brooks said. “The dogs began tracking toward Bell Fork Road.”
Meanwhile, back on Robinsonville Road, a search of the stranded vehicle turned up “a handmade pipe with a white residue that field-tested positive for methamphetamine” and some coins similar to ones reported stolen out of Conecuh and Monroe counties.
The man in the car, later identified as Zachary Sean Satterwhite, 29, of Flomaton, was charged with one count each of possession of a controlled substance, fourth degree receiving stolen property (the coins), attempting to elude police and possession of drug paraphernalia.
The woman was identified as 64-yer-old Janice Wall of Atmore. She was arrested on the county drug possession warrant.
As the dogs continued to track the alleged car thief, police received a report that the man had gotten into a blue truck. In a short time, police spotted the truck, which sped away from the lawmen.
A chase ensued that included city police, Alabama State Troopers and an agent of Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s Region A Drug Task Force who was in the area.
“We chased it for several miles, on I-65, then onto (Alabama) 113, then onto Sardine Road and, finally, onto Butler Street, where it crashed,” the police chief continued.
The driver, 53-year-old Michael Travis Bell of Cantonment, was arrested and the truck searched. “A crystal-like substance tested positive for meth, and we found a glass pipe,” said Brooks, who added that Bell, who fought briefly with officers, “took ownership of the meth.”
The Cantonment man, who police believe was the intended “pickup man” for the stolen vehicle, was charged with one count each of possession of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia, second-degree assault on a police officer and attempting to elude police. A female who was a passenger in the truck was released without charges.
Bell, Satterwhite and Wall each remained in the Escambia County Detention Center, without bond, late Monday afternoon. Florida authorities had not placed a hold on Satterwhite by late Monday but were expected to eventually charge him with vehicle theft.