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Zachary Wittke of Eganville has history of bizarre run-ins with police since he was a teenager

By Elizabeth Payne, Postmedia Network

Jean Levac/Postmedia Network

Accident on Daniel St in Arnprior on Sept. 25. Photos taken Sept. 26, 2017.  Small silver car was driven by Sheila Welsh of Arnprior who died as a result of accident. The pick-up truck was stolen and driver, Zachary Wittke, 20, of Eganville was arrested on the scene and he now faces several charges.

Jean Levac/Postmedia Network Accident on Daniel St in Arnprior on Sept. 25. Photos taken Sept. 26, 2017. Small silver car was driven by Sheila Welsh of Arnprior who died as a result of accident. The pick-up truck was stolen and driver, Zachary Wittke, 20, of Eganville was arrested on the scene and he now faces several charges.

Zachary Lee Wittke, the 20-year-old Eganville man charged in the Arnprior crash that killed Sheila Welsh on Monday, has a bizarre history of run-ins with the law dating back to a cross-border police chase when he was 16 that made international headlines.

In 2013, Wittke took off with a 13-year-old female companion in a crime-filled odyssey in a series of stolen vehicles that one sheriff in Maine termed a “Bonnie and Clyde thing.”

It began with a stolen vehicle that was later abandoned in Bell’s Corners before they stole a second vehicle in Ottawa, later abandoned near Sherbrooke, Que. The couple stole another car and eventually ended up in custody in Maine, but only after they had blown through the Canada-U. S. border, colliding with border patrol vehicles whose officers fired at their car, abandoned the car, stole a pick-up truck, then crashed it during a chase during which speeds exceeded 160 km/h, and jumped down an embankment into the Carrabassett River.

The teenaged girl, who was not charged, was injured in the jump.

The couple later told police they didn’t mean to cross into the United States and were led there by GPS.

In 2016, Wittke was involved in another bizarre incident in Ottawa. Then 19, he stabbed himself inside a bathroom at the Chapter’s store at the Pinecrest shopping centre. He had arrived there after posting a video of him driving a stolen truck to Facebook claiming he was “homicidal and suicidal.”

In the video, he challenged police to come after him, saying, “If you chase me, I will make sure someone dies.”

He claimed to be armed with a hammer, knife and ratchet and threatened to kill a police officer.

Confronted by a police officer at the store, he pulled out a knife and ran to the hallway where the washrooms are.

Tactical officers arrived and drew Tasers and firearms.

As with the Arnprior crash, Ontario’s police watchdog was called in to investigate. The SIU cleared Ottawa police officers of any wrongdoing in the 2016 incident.

In April of 2016, Wittke was sentenced to two years in jail and two years probation.

Wittke’s mother Valerie, said after he was arrested in Maine, that the teenager suffered from mental health problems. She said he had been in trouble with the law before the cross-border car chase and was on probation at the time.