Police arrived to find suspect and driver covered in blood
CHESTER - A Springfield woman who witnesses said tried to jump on a horse before flagging down a motorist and stabbing him in the neck with a shard of glass was ordered held without bail earlier this week.
Maria “Moochie” Perez, 27, of Springfield entered innocent pleas to felony charges of assault & robbery with injury resulting and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and to accompanying misdemeanor charges of operating a vehicle without the owner’s consent and reckless operation of a vehicle.
The bizarre series of incidents, which began with a mid-afternoon 911 call from a residence on Davidson Hill Road last Saturday, left authorities wondering aloud in the courtroom during Perez’s arraignment about whether drug use was responsible.
“Ms. Perez tried to steal a horse, then tried to steal a car and then stabbed someone,” Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill told Judge Timothy Tomasi. “It appears that Ms. Perez was not acting rationally at the time…(so) by virtue of the fact that we still don’t understand the reason why she was acting irrationally, she poses a risk to the public.”
Perez’s public defender, Nikki South, responded that, “Miss Perez has had a lengthy battle with substance abuse that the state is certainly well aware of,” as she asked the judge to allow her client to be released, saying, “In this case Miss Perez would like to continue to seek substance abuse treatment (because) jail is not the best place to detox.”
Judge Tomasi described Perez’s alleged actions as “extremely concerning and extremely violent” and said he was ordering her held without bail “principally because we don’t know what caused this,” adding, “The court would be willing to suspend the hold without bail for residential treatment,” if a bed can be found for her at a rehab facility.
Chester Police Sgt. Mark Phelps wrote that police initially received a 911 call from a woman who told dispatchers that “they” would not let her out of the house before abruptly hanging up.
After tracing the call, police were searching around Davidson Hill when one of the officers was flagged down by Thomas Chase who explained that a woman he only knew by her nickname of “Moochie” had just broken out a window at his home and run off into the woods.
Minutes later police received another 911 call, this time from Heidi Skinner, a resident on nearby Route 10, who was out weeding her garden.
Skinner described having just seen a “frantic” woman with “a wild look in her eyes” run onto her lawn and climb in and out of Skinner’s son’s car in the driveway before “army crawling” under a fence and running across her neighbor’s pasture into a barn and trying to get up onto a horse named “Dew” that was inside it.
Skinner told police that after she yelled for her neighbor and he chased the woman away from the horse, the woman ran out onto Route 10 and attempted to carjack a passing car.
Chester resident John Penney later explained to police that he’d been driving along Route 10 and nearly reached the Springfield town line when he “noticed a distressed woman on the side of the road trying to flag me down.”
“She looked as if she would jump in front of the car so I stopped,” Penney recalled in a written statement. “She moved to the passenger door claiming someone was trying to kill her. I rolled the window down halfway to ask what was wrong and she reached in and opened the door, jumping in.”
“All this happened in seconds,” Penney wrote, “She said ‘Drive! Get me out of here!’ I could see that she was bloody and noticed the glass (shard) in her hand…she jumped over the console and put her foot on the gas pedal…she fought with me to steer and drive the car.”
“As (the car) started to move, we struggled and she started to stab at my neck with the glass. I was able to stop and she knocked the shift out of ‘drive.’ She made several attempts to stab me (but) I was able to secure her hands (and) I held onto her until police arrive and removed her from the car,” Penney recounted.
Springfield Police Officer Jody LaFlam arrived on the scene in time to see Penney’s Volkswagen Golf station wagon crawling slowly past him in the opposite lane with its windshield wipers going without any rain in sight and he noticed “an altercation” underway in the driver’s area.
As LaFlam turned his cruiser into a nearby driveway to reverse direction he heard Skinner yell “She’s attacking the driver!” and moments later he pulled up behind the station wagon as it finally rolled to a stop in the middle of the road.
LaFlam noted in his report that as soon as he got up to the driver’s window he recognized Perez “from past police interactions.”
Perez was seated in Penney’s lap and “Perez’s left foot was pushing down the accelerator and (Penney) was pressing his foot down on the brake pedal,” LaFlam wrote, adding that he was struck by the “significant amount of blood” on both occupants of the car, “on the neck of the driver and all over Perez’s hands and arms…Perez had significant lacerations on her hands and was bleeding severely.”
“Perez was visibly out of control and (Penney) was asking for help getting her out of his car,” LaFlam wrote.
As LaFlam grabbed Perez’s wrist in an attempt to gain control of the four-inch long sharp piece of glass she was wielding, his fellow Springfield Officer Steve Neily arrived and grabbed her wrists as well, helping LaFlam pull Perez out through the passenger side and get her onto the ground face down and into handcuffs as Perez sang “Jesus love me” and made “excited utterances of a religious nature,” according to affidavits.
Other Chester and Springfield police officers began arriving along with ambulances from Springfield and Chester. Perez was loaded onto Springfield’s ambulance and Chester’s EMTs checked Penney over and discovered that he had sustained several superficial slashes and nicks on his neck, jaw, face and hands as a result of the struggle.
Officers noted in court paperwork that they had previously been advised to “take extreme caution” when dealing with Perez because she had allegedly “attempted to take a Springfield officer’s firearm during a fairly recent incident.”
Paramedics gave Perez a tranquilizer shot and police placed a mesh “spit hood” over her head “to prevent any spitting or biting, as she has a history of doing both,” Officer Timothy Worth wrote.
Worth said that Perez had calmed down considerably by the time police retrieved her from the emergency room at Springfield Hospital later that afternoon once she had been treated for the deep laceration on her right hand.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Springfield Police Officer Jody LaFlam is a male officer, not a female officer.
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