A man involved in a vehicle chase while transporting his mother’s body has been charged with murder in California, as well as a jail offense in South Dakota.
Tosten Walsh Lommen, 30, was charged in California’s Riverside County on Monday in the death of his mother, Michelle Walsh, according to court documents.
Authorities allege Walsh Lommen killed his mother “with deliberation and premeditation” sometime around Dec. 30. California investigators believe both were living in Walsh’s home in Palm Springs, located in Riverside County, when the crime occurred.
South Dakota troopers discovered her body in the back of the SUV Walsh Lommen was driving after he was arrested in a New Year’s Day high-speed chase on Interstate 90. The body was found wrapped in a blanket once the pursuit ended in Rapid City, local authorities said.
California police have searched the victim's home, which “revealed evidence of a homicide, such as bleach stains on the carpet and blood stains on the carpet,” according to a Palm Springs detective’s declaration in support of an arrest warrant for Walsh Lommen.
A preliminary autopsy, conducted in South Dakota, showed the 58-year-old woman died from strangulation, the document states.
Investigators believe Walsh was killed at her residence, Palm Springs Police Department spokesman Sgt. William Hutchinson said in an interview.
The police department sent officers to talk to Walsh Lommen, who has been detained at the Pennington County Jail on charges including aggravated eluding and driving under the influence. His bond is set at $2.5 million.
“Tosten was interviewed and he admitted to choking his mother,” Palm Springs Detective Steven Grissom’s court declaration reads. “He told me he freaked out and attempted to clean up the crime scene with bleach.”
Investigators believe he then drove to South Dakota, where troopers saw him driving over 100 mph around noon Jan. 1 and pursued him through Lawrence, Meade and Pennington counties. Hutchinson said he’s not yet aware whether Walsh Lommen has any links to the state.
The Superior Court of California approved an arrest warrant for Walsh Lommen on Monday, setting his bail at $1 million. His murder charge is punishable by up to life in prison, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office said.
On Tuesday, Walsh Lommen reappeared at the Pennington County Courthouse on a new local charge of possessing an unauthorized article in jail.
Jail officials said a correctional officer found a weapon — a “sharpened toothbrush” — Monday afternoon inside a cell that only Walsh Lommen occupied, states a sheriff’s deputy report obtained from court. The item was described as a jail-issued toothbrush “sharpened to a point on the handle end.”
Walsh Lommen apparently told the correctional officer he used it for cleaning his fingernails.
The latest charge is the most serious that he is facing in South Dakota, punishable by up to 25 years in prison. He is scheduled to return to court later this month.
Meanwhile, California authorities want to extradite Walsh Lommen so he can face the murder charge. Extradition proceedings will begin once his South Dakota charges have been resolved in some manner, John Hall, spokesman for the Riverside County prosecutor’s office, said in an interview.
Hall declined to discuss possible motives in Walsh’s killing.