PITTSFIELD — A Navy deserter turned himself in to authorities Tuesday, ending a three-day search by state and local police.
James Withee, 26, of Detroit, walked into the Pittsfield police station Tuesday afternoon with his wife and mother-in-law at his side and calmly told dispatcher Mary Poulin that he was turning himself in.
Withee was absent without leave from the Navy for about nine months, said authorities. He had been living in Pittsfield quite openly for several months, according to friends. It wasn’t until police stopped him for a traffic violation this weekend that they learned of his AWOL status.
State and local police had been searching for Withee since early Sunday morning when he bolted from a state trooper while being escorted into the Pittsfield station.
Withee had been stopped on Route 100 in Palmyra at about 2 a.m. by Maine State Trooper Chris Carr, who said that Withee was stopped because he had no front license plate. Carr quickly suspected that he was intoxicated. Withee told Carr that his first name was Raymond, who is his brother. A computer check of Raymond’s driving record indicated that he held a conditional license, which does not allow the consumption of any alcohol, said Carr.
Still assuming he was dealing with Raymond Withee, Carr brought the man to the Pittsfield station to administer an intoxilizer test. Carr said Withee was not in custody nor had he been arrested.
“We got out of the car and walked to the station’s back entrance. I went back to the car to retrieve some paperwork and when my back was turned, he ran,” said Carr.
It was only later, through investigation, that Carr discovered the man was actually James Withee and that he was wanted by the U.S. Navy for desertion. Carr spent most of the weekend in Detroit and Pittsfield looking for Withee.
After Withee showed up Tuesday afternoon, Carr came to the Pittsfield station and arrested him. He was taken to the Somerset County Jail and Carr said naval personnel are expected to pick him up on Thursday to stand charges of desertion. Carr charged him with drunken driving, illegal attachment of license plates and failure to give correct name and address.