Man held on high cash bail following high-speed pursuit | News

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MERRIMAC — A man living in a Salem shelter was ordered held on $5,000 cash bail Friday after police say he led them on a drunken high-speed highway pursuit Thursday afternoon that ended up with his arrest at the Broad Street/Route 110 intersection.

Peter Ducharme, 50, was charged with driving while under the influence of alcohol, leaving the scene of property damage, receiving a stolen motor vehicle (subsequent offense), negligent operation of a motor vehicle and operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license (subsequent offense). 

At Ducharme’s arraignment Friday in Newburyport District Court, Judge Jane Prince rejected an appeal by his attorney not to set bail and ordered him to return to court on June 9. 

Around 3:30 p.m. Thursday, State Police were alerted by their New Hampshire counterparts about a stolen Hyundai Elantra racing down Interstate 95 south into Massachusetts. New Hampshire police broke off the pursuit once Ducharme crossed the border. A short time later, an off duty police officer called the Newbury barracks saying the Elantra drove past him at around 120 mph in the breakdown lane of Interstate 495 north near Broad Street in Merrimac.

The witness then saw the car swerve in and out of lanes before leaving the highway and crashing into a ditch closer to Broad Street, according to Trooper Jack Donaldson’s report. 

By the time Donaldson had arrived at the crash site, Amesbury and Merrimac police were on scene and told the trooper that the driver, later identified as Ducharme, had taken off into a section of woods. Three passengers in the car were unhurt and questioned by police.

‘There was an extremely strong odor of an intoxicating liquid coming from inside the vehicle, and there were a large amount of open and closed alcohol bottles and cans from a number of different brands,” Donaldson wrote in his report.

To aid in the search for Ducharme, the State Police’s Airwing helicopter and a K-9 squad were called to the scene. K-9 Valor and his handler picked up Ducharme’s trail and followed it to a Broad Street Dunkin’s close to School Street. A short time later, Ducharme was spotted at the Broad Street/Route 110 intersection and apprehended. Ducharme, who smelled strongly of alcohol, was then brought back to the crash site. 

“All three passengers identified Ducharme as the operator of the vehicle and they said he had been drinking a lot,” Donaldson wrote in his report. 

Ducharme was eventually driven to the Newbury barracks where he was booked. During booking, Donaldson learned Ducharme had an extensive criminal record and learned the Elantra was reported stolen from a Circle K gas station in Portsmouth. 

At Ducharme’s arraignment, Essex County prosecutor Michelle Belmonte said he had a 14-page criminal record including motor vehicle theft, assault and battery of a family member, breaking and entering of motor vehicle and other offenses. 

“A career thief, probably a career criminal,” Belmonte said. 

Dave Rogers is a reporter with the Daily News of Newburyport. Email him at: Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008. 

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