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Police nab prison ecapees in Troy

by Canda Harbaugh & Western News
| January 28, 2009 11:00 PM

Two federal fugitives who were caught Monday afternoon in Troy made an initial appearance Tuesday before U.S. District Court Judge Jeremiah Lynch in Missoula.

Donald Joseph Schwindt, 42, and William Newhoff, 26, had not yet been charged as of Wednesday for escaping Mineral County Jail and allegedly stealing a pickup that they used to drive 150 miles away to Troy.

The men were being held in Superior on federal firearms charges before escaping Sunday, according to federal court documents. They had been arrested in separate incidents for felony possession of firearms, and were awaiting sentencing in the U.S. District Court in Missoula. Schwindt is scheduled to be sentenced for those charges Friday.

A Montana Highway Patrol officer pulled over Schwindt and Newhoff in Troy at about 1:30 Monday afternoon after observing the reported-stolen 2001 red Dodge pickup, according to reports by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Marshals Service.

Officer Bryce Ford arrested Newhoff during the traffic stop, but Schwindt took off on foot, triggering a three-hour manhunt that involved seven local and federal government agencies.

Schwindt was arrested about a quarter-of-a-mile from where the pickup was stopped, according to Officer Jim Sweet of Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.

“He was hunkered down up against a tree,” Sweet said. “At one point, we had a Border Patrol airplane and helicopter over him. We pretty much had him surrounded – it was just a matter of flushing him out.”

Schwindt was captured with help by officers from Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, Montana Highway Patrol, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Troy Police Department, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Marshals Service and air support from the Department of Homeland Security.

Newhoff and Schwindt were transported to Missoula County jail after capture and are facing federal, and possibly state, escape charges, according to the U.S. Marshal’s office. 

How the men escaped is unclear. Mineral County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Marshals Service officials handling the case declined to comment because the investigation is ongoing.

No one had been arrested in aiding the men escape as of Wednesday, according to Supervising Deputy Dana Rossmiller of the U.S. Marshals office in Great Falls, though possible suspects are being investigated.

(The Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell contributed to this story).