A Waynesville woman must serve in prison a minimum of six months to a maximum of 17 months for stealing a Lake Junaluska security vehicle earlier this summer, District Attorney Ashley Hornsby Welch said.
Stopping Kendyll Unterreiner, 28, required Sgt. Doug Carver of the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office to ram his patrol vehicle into the stolen vehicle, sending both vehicles into the lake.
Unterreiner stole the security vehicle at 9:50 a.m. on June 2. At the time, Lake Junaluska’s popular around-the-lake path was in heavy use. To forestall anyone from being injured – or worse – a Sheriff’s Office supervisor authorized Carver to perform pursuit intervention technique, or PIT. Using this maneuver, the pursuing car forces a fleeing car to turn sideways abruptly, causing the fleeing driver to lose control and stop.
Unterreiner pleaded guilty to felony flee/elude with motor vehicle and felony larceny. Along with an active prison sentence for felony flee/elude with motor vehicle of six months to 17 months, Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Bradley B. Letts ordered Unterreiner to serve a suspended sentence of six months to 17 months for felony larceny, undergo 24 months of supervised probation and pay almost $7,000 restitution.
Here’s what happened:
Security Officer Lynda Hyatt went to Lake Junaluska’s boat ramp, then the Welcome Center parking lot, after a guest reported someone tried to steal a dog. The failed dognapper, later identified as Unterreiner, told the security office her name was Ace Ventura. That is the name of a pet detective in a movie.
Unterreiner sprinted to Hyatt’s security vehicle. She climbed into the driver’s seat, turned right onto U.S. 19 and sped off.
Sgt. Carver watched as the stolen vehicle turned. He pursued Unterreiner in his patrol vehicle. She turned left into a church parking lot. Carver drove his patrol car in front of the security vehicle, but the woman stopped, backed and turned left.
“I pulled up beside the security vehicle, and I made a decision to ram the vehicle,” Carver said in an incident report. “I felt the driver was a danger to others.”
Instead, Unterreiner hit the patrol vehicle with the security vehicle. She turned right, leaving the parking lot and returning to U.S. 19.
Next, Unterreiner sped through a traffic light and turned right into the Hot Tub Store parking lot.
Carver followed, again driving his patrol vehicle in front of the stolen vehicle, and again Unterreiner hit the patrol vehicle. She fled the parking lot and went toward the intersection of Russ Avenue and U.S. 19, driving more than 85 mph in a zone designated 45 mph. She went through another traffic light, heading south on U.S. 19.
At speeds topping 100 mph, Unterreiner drove in an oncoming, northbound lane of the four-lane highway. She turned left on Southlake Shore Drive and headed back into Lake Junaluska.
“I checked for any pedestrians and other vehicles. The area was clear,” Carver said in his incident report.
Carver rammed his vehicle into the security vehicle, ending the chase.
Deputy Daniel Blagg took Unterreiner into custody after she attempted to flee on foot from the wrecked security vehicle.
Assistant District Attorney Jeff Jones prosecuted the case.