By Aaron Gibson – News Democrat
A Ripley man accused of leading police on a high-speed chase while intoxicated was booked into jail on Sunday, April 24, following a crash which left him hospitalized.
James J. Eckler allegedly lead several police agencies on an eight mile chase through Brown County on Saturday evening before crashing his vehicle into a fence and attempting to hide in a wooded area near Georgetown.
According to Chief Bob Feinen of Higginsport Police, the chase began at approximately 10:30 p.m. at the corner of US-52 and State Route 221 in Higginsport and continued northward on State Route 221 at speeds of 70 to 80 MPH.
“[Eckler] nearly sideswiped one of the Georgetown units coming to assist … Multiple times he was driving in the southbound lanes while he was going northbound,” Feinen said.
Feinen said the chase continued for approximately eight miles until Eckler lead police off-road into a field near a Georgetown reservoir.
“He then took the vehicle out into the field and drove out into the field for about 300, 350 yards before crashing into a fence,” according to Feinen.
After the crash, Eckler allegedly ran into a hilly, wooded area, where police found him hiding atop rocks approximately thirty minutes later, Feinen said.
Eckler was transported to Mt. Orab Mercy Hospital and a blood sample to determine his level of intoxication was obtained, according to court records.
A medical helicopter later transported Eckler to University of Cincinnati Medical Center to treat injuries sustained in the crash.
According to an affidavit filed in Brown County Municipal Court, Eckler refused a field sobriety test, but allegedly admitted to consuming approximately “four or five” 20 oz. cans of beer that evening.
The affidavit says Anthony Mountjoy, the Higginsport officer who first attempted to stop Eckler, also observed a strong odor of alcohol on Eckler’s breath.
Members of the Brown County Sheriff’s Office, Georgetown Police and the Ohio State Highway Patrol assisted Higginsport Police in the chase.
Eckler has been charged with third-degree felony OVI, third-degree felony failure to comply with an order or signal of police officer and first-degree misdemeanor driving under OVI suspension.
The case is set for a preliminary hearing on May 10 in Brown County Municipal Court.
In April 2013, Eckler was convicted in Brown County Common Pleas Court of felony aggravated vehicular assault and misdemeanor OVI. He received a two-year prison sentence and loss of driving privileges for 10 years in that case.