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story.lead_photo.caption Howland

A Camden man who burglarized a Hot Springs church, stole the church's van and led Arkansas State police on a high-speed pursuit before wrecking and injuring another motorist last year pleaded guilty Monday to multiple felony charges.

Steven Lewis Howland, 20, pleaded guilty in Garland County Circuit Court to commercial burglary, theft of property over $5,000, felony fleeing in a vehicle and two counts of failure to appear and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with four years suspended, on each count and to second-degree battery and was sentenced to six years, all to run concurrently.

Howland also pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated, drugs, and was fined $600, ordered to pay $320 in court costs, his driver's license was suspended and he must complete the Arkansas Department of Correction's outpatient MADD alcohol program. He will be given credit for time served off and on since his initial arrest.

According to the probable cause affidavit, on May 17, 2018, shortly before 10 p.m., Arkansas State Police Trooper Michael Summitt was at the junction of Mountain Pine Road and Albert Pike when he saw Howland pull beside him in a white Ford passenger van with Harvey's Chapel Baptist Church graphics on it.

As Howland headed east on Albert Pike he accelerated to a high rate of speed and had difficulty staying in his lane. After clocking the van on radar going 22 mph over the speed limit, Summitt caught up to it near Weston Road as Howland made an abrupt lane change without signaling to pass another vehicle and then made an improper lane change to get on the King Expressway.

Summitt activated his lights to stop the van, which had its hazard lights on and was gaining speed, veering from lane to lane and driving down the center. The trooper activated his siren as Howland continued to accelerate, reaching speeds of 90 mph, still veering from lane to lane.

At one point, Summitt pulled alongside the driver's side of the van so Howland could see the markings of his ASP unit, but the van continued east to the Higdon Ferry Road exit where Howland attempted to turn right to go south.

Howland failed to maintain control and traveled across both lanes where he collided with the front of a northbound vehicle driven by Deborah Dispensa, 65, causing both vehicles to wreck. Summitt removed Howland from the van and took him to the ground where a brief struggle ensued before he could be handcuffed.

Dispensa had exited the passenger side of her vehicle and was being helped by other motorists as Summitt checked on her. Summitt began a pat-down search of Howland and had to take him to the ground again when he resisted, but he finally became compliant.

Summitt noted Howland appeared to be under the influence, but he initially denied taking anything. After LifeNet arrived to check him out, he stated he swallowed 20 Xanax pills during the pursuit and drank a beer earlier.

Howland's vitals were checked and he was cleared by LifeNet and placed in the back of Summitt's unit. A short time later, Summitt noted Howland was slumped over in the seat and had vomited on himself so he called for LifeNet to respond back and transport him to CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs for a possible overdose.

While Summitt was still on the scene, he learned from the Garland County Sheriff's Department the van had been stolen from the church, located in the 2500 block of Mountain Pine Road, a few minutes earlier. The 2014 Econoline van was valued at about $15,000.

Summitt later spoke to Dispensa at CHI where she was undergoing scans and X-rays to determine the extent of her injuries and was complaining of pain in her neck. He also spoke to Howland again who was alert and talkative at that point and stated "I'm sorry" multiple times.

Howland admitted to stealing the van from the church where he said his uncle was pastor. He said he and his cousin, 19, had walked to the church and his cousin broke in and stole some items from the refrigerator and the keys to the van which Howland took from him. He said he left in the van while his cousin left on foot.

He gave Summitt different reasons for stealing the van including that he was on his way to see his mother in the hospital, he was on his way to rehab and that people in Mountain Pine had been shooting at him.

Sheriff's Investigator Charlie Mowery arrived at the scene of the wreck and noted heavy damage to the front of the van. He found a baseball cap and backpack in the front area of the van and found a set of keys in the driver's seat.

Mowery later reviewed the church's security video and determined the person seen entering the church matched the description of Howland and was wearing the cap and backpack found.

Local on 05/16/2019

Print Headline: Man sentenced to prison for stealing church van, fleeing, injuring motorist

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