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2 arrested after high-speed chase in Ravalli Co.

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HAMILTON, Mont. - A man wanted on several warrants in Ravalli County and his female associate were arrested after a high-speed chase that reached speeds over 100 mph.

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The following is a press release from the Ravalli County Sheriff's Office:

Ravalli County Sheriff Steve Holton said 39-year-old James Franklin Wages was arrested today after a pursuit in the Hamilton area.

Sheriff Holton said Wages was wanted for multiple warrants as well as being suspected in at least eight vehicle thefts and numerous other crimes in Ravalli and Missoula Counties. The Ravalli County Sheriff's Office received information early this morning that Wages and an associate, 50-year-old Tonya Fussell, were possibly in a hanger at the Ravalli County Airport in Hamilton. When Sheriff's Deputies and MT Probation and Parole Officers attempted to locate Wages, he and Fussell fled in what was later determined to be another stolen maroon Ford Expedition. Deputies were able to deploy a tire deflation device at the airport, which Wages struck with the right front tire of his vehicle. Wages led law enforcement including Hamilton Police Officers on a pursuit through Hamilton and south to Skalkaho Highway, with speeds reaching over 100 mph on the highway.

Wages led law enforcement to Skalkaho Rye Creek Road, and then to Railroad Creek (FS 711), where Fussell jumped out of the suspect vehicle and was detained. A Sheriff's Detective deployed a spike mat and deflated the other three tires at the intersection of Rail Road Creek and Skalkaho, but Wages continued east on Skalkaho for short distance before losing control of the vehicle and crashing off of the roadway. Wages attempted to run, then threatened law enforcement with a tree branch and resisted attempts to arrest him, forcing law enforcement officers to use a taser to take him into custody.

Fussell was booked into the Ravalli County Detention Center for misdemeanor criminal trespass to property and felony possession of dangerous drugs.

Wages was booked into the Ravalli County Detention Center for the existing warrants and felony charges of Assault With A Weapon, Burglary, Reckless Eluding, Criminal Endangerment, Possession of A Stolen Vehicle, Theft Of a Motor Vehicle, as well as misdemeanor charges of Driving Under The Influence of Drugs, Resisting Arrest, Criminal Mischief, and Criminal Trespass to Property.

Sheriff Holton thanked the many citizens who assisted law enforcement in the apprehension of Wages. Holton said law enforcement lost sight of Wages a couple of times during the pursuit and citizens pointed out his direction to pursuing officers. Sheriff Holton also thanked the Probation/Parole Officers and Hamilton Police Officers for their assistance. Holton stated, "Wages has been on a drug induced crime spree for twelve days, and it is a good stroke of business to get him in jail where he cannot victimize our communities".

The investigation into Wages activity continues, and more information will be released when available.

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