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Woman arrested following multiple vehicle pursuits

A Morgantown woman was arrested Monday following multiple vehicle pursuits and a joint effort between several Monongalia County law enforcement agencies. 

Officer M.D. France, with the Morgantown Police Department, first reported encountering the woman, who would be identified days later as Jessica LeeAnn Bittinger, 40, during a welfare check on Dec. 12 at the Asturias Lane Sheetz, off Grafton Road. 

According to the officer’s report, they found the woman in a Dodge Avenger “with her head fallen backwards and drug paraphernalia in her right hand.” 

France stated the woman became alert after the officer knocked on the car window and “immediately put the vehicle in reverse.” 

The officer said Bittinger stopped briefly before reversing again, nearly striking their patrol vehicle. 

Bittinger allegedly drove through the parking lot at a high rate of speed before making her way to Grafton Road, disregarding any stop signs. 

France reported they began to pursue the vehicle with lights and sirens on Grafton Road and watched Bittinger cross the center line multiple times and pass two cars on a double yellow line. 

Concerned for public safety, France dropped out of the pursuit. While slowing down, the officer watched the vehicle pass another vehicle on a double yellow line. 

After running the registration on the vehicle, France learned it was a rental car, but would eventually find the person who rented the car was not the driver. 

On Monday, six days after France’s alleged encounter with Bittinger, MPD officers were dispatched to Montrose Avenue in the Sabraton area of Morgantown for multiple reports of shots heard. 

While patrolling the area, police saw a Honda HR-V with “a female slumped backwards in the driver’s seat,” the report said. 

Once the driver was alert, they moved the vehicle, which was already in drive, forward despite officers’ orders to stop. 

The driver, who would later be identified as Bittinger, swerved around the officers’ cruiser and drove away. France who was also on this scene, then got behind the vehicle with lights and sirens. 

Bittinger made her way to Earl L. Core Road then turned onto Deckers Creek Boulevard, France reported. She then disregarded a stop sign turning onto Green Bag Road. 

The pursuit continued onto Earl Core Road once again, “reaching speeds of over 63 mph,” the officer said. The posted speed limit is 35 mph. 

Continuing on W.Va. 7, France said the vehicle crossed left of center multiple times before turning onto Tyrone Road toward Cheat Lake. 

According to the complaint, “while traveling on Tyrone Road, the vehicle went left of center multiple times, as well as drove completely in the opposite lane on multiple occasions. 

The beginning of the end of Bittinger’s attempt to flee started when an officer with the Granville Police Department deployed spike strips near Greenway Avenue, causing all four tires to deflate. 

Despite hitting the strips, Bittinger continued to drive, France stated, disregarding another stop sign before turning left onto Cheat Road. 

With all tires deflated, the vehicle started slowing down and Monongalia County Sheriff’s deputies began an attempt to box in and stop the vehicle. 

However, France said, Bittinger continued to swerve around the officers and deputies, in the process striking two deputies’ cruisers and a Morgantown Police vehicle, causing her to run off the roadway and down a hillside. 

Bittinger’s vehicle finally came to a stop near Storage Inn on Cheat Road. She was taken into custody and EMS was called to the scene.  

Inside the vehicle on the driver’s seat, the driver-side floorboard and on the passenger’s seat, officers could see drug paraphernalia, including straws and burnt foil. 

According to the police report, Bittinger had slurred speech and was unable to keep her eyes open. She allegedly admitted to using crack cocaine. 

Upon searching the vehicle, they found “two folded orange sticking notes containing a white powdery substance, one small blue pill, several straws, a glass pipe with residue, empty plastic bags with white powdery residue, an empty plastic container with white powdery residue, a scale with a white powdery substance, one bong, and black Samsung phone with a white powdery substance on it.” 

Mon EMS transported Bittinger to the hospital for treatment. She is now being held at North Central Regional Jail. 

Bittinger was arraigned in Monongalia County Magistrate Court on Monday for both the Dec. 12 and Dec. 18 incidents.  

She is charged with fleeing with reckless indifference on Dec. 12 and a $6,000 bond was set. For Monday’s pursuit, she is charged with fleeing with reckless indifference, fleeing while under the influence and possession of a controlled substance. Bond for these offenses was set at $22,000. 

The Dominion Post reached out to the Morgantown Police Department to find out if the source of the initial shots fired call had been resolved but did not receive a response in time for this report. 

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