BUCKHANNON — Law enforcement spent Monday night searching for a man who allegedly tried to strangle his wife in a domestic incident, and the hunt ended in a wreck on the Old Weston Road.
Benjamin Harris Keller, 39, was arrested for strangulation, a felony, and fleeing with reckless indifference, two counts, felonies.
Keller, who had both a Buckhannon and a Thomas address listed in the criminal complaint, was at his residence on Marteney Road arguing with his wife when he allegedly grabbed her by the throat and started choking her, according to the criminal complaint. The victim told Cpl. Theron Caynor that Keller was yelling that he was going to kill her and she was starting to black out when her stepson pushed Keller off of her. The victim had red marks on both sides of her neck and received the injuries to her neck from the defendant, according to the criminal complaint.
Later, Cpl. Dewaine Linger was searching for Keller’s white Nissan Altima when he passed a car matching the description and turned around to try to catch up with the vehicle. He got behind the vehicle at Lowe’s and learned the license plate matched the suspect vehicle. At that time, the Nissan turned off Route 20 onto the entrance ramp for Route 33, accelerating rapidly. Linger activated his lights and siren but the Altima continued to speed up.
“This officer was able to keep up with the vehicle for a few miles on Route 33 West until speeds reached in excess of 105 mph, placing other motorists on the highway in danger,” Linger wrote in the criminal complaint.
Linger lost sight of the car as it headed down Route 33 into Lewis County and ended the pursuit.
Sometime later, sheriff’s deputies were looking for Keller in the Lorentz area to serve a warrant and again spotted a vehicle that fit the description of the white Nissan Altima. When Caynor got to the Altima, Keller pulled onto the Old Weston Road, traveling east. Caynor turned on his lights, but Keller continued to head east, weaving across the center line and reaching speeds of approximately 80 mph in a 40 mph zone, according to the criminal complaint. Around Red Rock Road, Keller almost struck a Buckhannon Police cruiser on the driver’s side.
Caynor turned on his siren, but Keller continued to drive at a high speed. He then slowed down, and Caynor struck Keller’s vehicle when Keller was trying to turn and drive up the off ramp at the first Buckhannon exit, while cars were coming down the ramp.
Buckhannon police chief Matt Gregory said Cpl. Nick Caynor had also dealt with Keller earlier in the evening, sighting him near the DHHR.
At that time, Keller hit the front part of Nick Caynor’s cruiser around the bush guard and continued to flee, according to Gregory.
“Nick lost sight of him at that time,” he said. “The pursuit was rejoined about 11 p.m., at which time they were able to get him stopped.”
Several state troopers from the West Virginia State Police and another city patrolman, Joseph Barcus, also assisted in the search.
After Theron Caynor struck the Altima, it ended up just past the entrance ramp and Nick Caynor pinned the front end of the Altima against the guardrail to end the pursuit, according to Gregory.
Gregory said the damage to Nick Caynor’s cruiser is not disabling and the officer was not hurt.
“It’s fixable,” he said of the cruiser.
Sheriff David Coffman did not return messages seeking more details.
Keller was arraigned Tuesday morning before Magistrate Mike Coffman, who set bond at $100,000 — $50,000 cash only and $50,000 surety.
If convicted, Keller faces up to a $2,500 fine and/or imprisonment in a state correctional facility for one to five years for strangulation and imprisonment in a state correctional facility for one to five years and a fine of $1,000 to $2,000 on each count of fleeing with reckless indifference.