Deja Miller had her 2014 Hyundai Elantra for only a couple of weeks before she began having problems with the engine starter. Brian Jones Motorsport, the business where she originally bought it, offered to get it repaired at another business. It was here that Miller’s car disappeared.
Danville police reported that Matthew Sutterlin, 30, might have stolen the vehicle and used it during a high-speed chase in October. Details of the car’s engine problems, it’s disappearance and role in a police chase came up in testimony Thursday afternoon during a preliminary hearing for Sutterlin in Danville General District Court. He was charged with receiving stolen property, trespassing and eluding police.
And though Judge Judge Robert Adams Jr. sent to a grand jury the trespassing and eluding charge, he dismissed the count involving stolen property because of conflicting testimony over the make of the car that police chased.
“I’m discharging the receiving stolen property,” Adams said.
Miller testified that the car was taken in by Brian Jones Motorsport on Riverside Drive on Oct. 3, and was later handed off to Smith Davis Tire Pros on Piney Forest Road. She later discovered the car was taken from the business that was supposed to fix it.
Smith Davis Tire Pros employee John Scott testified they received the car and, after replacing the starter, the car remained parked in their lot. It was a week later that another worker noticed that the car was missing.
“’The vehicle is not where it’s parked,’” Scott said, repeating what the employee told him.
The next time someone saw the car was the early morning of Oct. 24, when officer Chris Agee patrolled the stores along Holt Garrison Parkway.
“We got an alarm call at Xfinity, and this was on my way back,” he said.
Agee was driving along Lowe’s Drive when he saw a black vehicle sitting in the parking lot of the Lowe’s Home Improvement store. This was abnormal, he testified, because of the time — around 4:30 a.m.
As he entered the parking lot, he testified, a “Subaru” passed nearby going the opposite way. Both he and the driver had their windows down. He told the driver to “stop.”
Danville Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney David McKaig asked Agee if he could identify who it was driving the vehicle that night.
“He’s in the orange suit to the left,” Agee answered, after nodding in the direction of Sutterlin, donning a prison-orange jumpsuit and shackles attached to his wrists, waist and ankles as he stood next to his defense attorney.
Agee testified that he thought the car would slow down and park in a nearby parking lot. Instead, it sped up and the chase began. Agee was unsure of exactly how long the chase lasted.
“Several minutes — from Mount Cross Road to Old Greensboro Road,” he said.
Google maps shows the distance to be 9.5 miles.
The car topped 80 miles an hour, Agee testified, with many motorists slamming on breaks or pulling out of the way. The pursuit was eventually terminated near Old Greensboro Road.
Defense attorney Elizabeth Hurt asked Agee if he was able to run the plates on the car he chased that night. He said he did run the plates on the vehicle.
“It did not come back to a Subaru,” he said.
The Elantra later up in Caswell County, North Carolina, a few hours after the chase, according to a criminal complaint filed in Danville General District Court on Oct. 31.
Sutterlin is also a suspect in an investigation into several vending machine thefts throughout the city late last year, mainly because he was identified driving a vehicle matching the description of the one used in the thefts. This was not brought up during the preliminary hearing, however, and no charges related to the case have been filed against Sutterlin.
Avent is a reporter with the Danville Register & Bee. Reach him at (434) 797-7983.