A California man is being detained on a $2.5 million bond after reportedly leading police on a high-speed chase that ended with a dead woman found in his vehicle.
Tosten Walsh Lommen, 30, of Santa Cruz, Calif., is charged in Pennington County with aggravated eluding, drunken driving, reckless driving and resisting arrest.
The chase, which happened around noon on New Year’s Day, went through three counties, a prosecutor told the court Tuesday morning. After police disabled Walsh Lommen’s vehicle, he allegedly fled on foot then fought with arresting officers.
“There was a deceased person found in the vehicle,” Assistant State Attorney General Gina Nelson said, adding that the cause of death remains unexplained and under investigation. She said Walsh Lommen has a history involving drugs, firearms and assault.
Seventh Circuit Magistrate Judge Scott Bogue granted Nelson’s request for a $2.5 million cash or surety bond. He echoed the prosecution’s reasons, including that Walsh Lommen tried to evade authorities and is a flight risk since he doesn’t have ties to South Dakota.
Bogue said also that the court right now can’t take homicide “off the realm of possibility” in the woman’s death.
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said in a release that the state Division of Criminal Investigation is looking into the “suspicious death.” The body hasn’t been identified yet, Attorney General’s Office spokeswoman Sara Rabern said in an interview Tuesday afternoon.
Walsh Lommen is detained at the Pennington County Jail, where his bond amount is the highest among the current inmates. He appeared in court via video linkup with the jail, wearing a red-striped uniform, indicating he is segregated from the general inmate population.
According to a police statement obtained from court, Walsh Lommen caught the South Dakota Highway Patrol’s attention when a trooper saw him heading east on Interstate 90, in Lawrence County, “at speeds in excess of 100 mph.” The trooper failed to get him to stop.
Somewhere in Meade County, another trooper registered Walsh Lommen’s SUV traveling at 118 mph. The highway patrol and Rapid City police laid out spike strips, which deflated the vehicle’s front tires, bringing it to a stop in a ditch within Rapid City, the two-page probable cause affidavit states.
Walsh Lommen reportedly ran from the vehicle, but two troopers grabbed him as he was trying to go over a chain-link fence. A check of his driver’s license showed it was suspended in California, but he had been given a work permit to drive, according to the document.
A search of the SUV revealed “a female body in the rear of the vehicle wrapped in a blanket,” the statement reads.
Troopers also located prescription medication for Walsh Lommen, as well as credit cards belonging to Michelle Walsh, whose name also appears on the vehicle’s registration. Her relationship to Walsh Lommen is unclear.
A preliminary breath test on Walsh Lommen showed he had a blood alcohol content of .142, according to the affidavit. That is almost twice the threshold for drunken driving, which is .08 BAC.
Aggravated eluding is a felony punishable by up to two years in prison. Walsh Lommen’s three other charges are misdemeanors, each carrying a maximum penalty of a year in county jail.
He is scheduled to return to court for a preliminary hearing later this month.