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Man found guilty of fleeing police

Published August 06. 2014 04:00PM

A Carbon County jury panel of nine women and three men deliberated Tuesday afternoon for about a half-hour before finding Walnutport man guilty of fleeing or attempting to elude police, a felony.

John Duncan Holzer, 41, was charged by Palmerton police for an incident that occurred during the early morning hours of Jan. 13, 2012.

Judge Joseph J. Matika found Holzer guilty of three motor vehicle code summary violations of careless driving, reckless driving and stop signs.

Holzer, who represented himself at the trial, has been in the county prison since January on the charges. The case took a long time coming to a conclusion because of continuances filed by the defendant and his former legal representative and by Holzer not showing up for at least two preliminary hearings in which bench warrants were then issued for his arrest.

Officer Robert Cohowicz, then of the Palmerton police but now with the Stroud Regional police in Monroe County, testified he was on routine patrol at 2:30 a.m. and was approaching the intersection of Lafayette Avenue and Sixth Street when a red Ford Explorer turned onto Lafayette, failed to stop for a stop sign and almost hit the patrol cruiser.

Cohowicz said as the Explorer passed him, he recognized the driver as Holzer.

A chase ensued on Lafayette Avenue with speeds reaching 70 mph in a 25 zone. Holzer failed to stop for three stop signs and turned off his headlights as he went through the intersections, Cohowicz said.

The chase ended at a "T" intersection where Lafayette bears right and a left leads to Franklin Avenue. Cohowicz said he turned left at the intersection as he lost sight of the Explorer for a short time. The Explorer got further away as Cohowicz slowed down for each intersection.

He spotted the abandoned Explorer parked on a hill on the side of Lafayette Avenue. Cohowicz said a plate check showed it was registered to Holzer.

Cohowicz said he checked a nearby embankment that led to Mauch Chunk Street and found fresh footprints and tree limbs broken, indicating someone had gone through the area. It had rained during the night and was drizzling at the time of the chase.

Later he learned that Holzer frequented 588 Mauch Chunk St., not far from where the Explorer was found. He went to that address and asked if Holzer was at the residence. He was told Holzer had arrived and told the occupants that his vehicle broke down and also that he had a flat tire.

Cohowicz entered the home and was told Holzer was in the basement area. He went downstairs and found Holzer's then-girlfriend, identified as Tammy Lettich, who said Holzer was not there. While speaking with Lettich, Cohowicz heard a noise in another area of the basement and found Holzer behind a boiler and took him into custody.

Melissa Murray, who lives at the Mauch Chunk Street residence, said Holzer arrived at her home with Lettich and told her he had a flat tire.

She also testified that Holzer was wearing a gray shirt and black leather jacket. Cohowicz had testified when he first saw Holzer, he was wearing a black leather jacket.

Holzer said he had walked to Murray's residence from another location in the borough because he was trying to avoid Lettich. He said she would not leave him alone despite his intent to break off their relationship. He said she might have had his vehicle and that turned up at Murray's home, where they argued.

District Attorney Gary F. Dobias argued to the jury that Holzer's actions created a very dangerous situation by speeding through a highly populated residential area. He also said Cohowicz had identified Holzer as driving the vehicle he had pursued that morning.

Matika deferred sentencing and ordered a presentence investigation report be prepared by the adult probation office.

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