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Court paper: Initial Taser deployment failed before van struck 47-year-old

Published On: May 21 2014 06:09:45 PM CDT
Updated On: May 22 2014 07:16:02 AM CDT

Christopher Rutherford, the Beloit man suspected in a crash that killed a Beloit woman earlier this month, had drugs and alcohol in his system at the time, according to court papers. Also hear from the citizen who helped police take Rutherford into custody May 11. Dannika Lewis reports.

BELOIT, Wis. -

Court documents said the man suspected in a crash that killed a Beloit woman earlier this month had drugs and alcohol in his system at the time.

Christopher Rutherford, 40, was arrested on suspicion of first-degree reckless homicide and felony fleeing resulting in death Tuesday in connection with the death of 47-year-old Sheila Rosenbaum, his former girlfriend.

Rutherford was in Rock County court for an initial appearance on the charges Wednesday afternoon. The criminal complaint shed light on the events that led up to Rosenbaum's death.

According to the complaint, the incident that led up to when a van struck Rosenbaum -- she was later pronounced dead at a hospital -- began when Rutherford went to Rosenbaum's home and found the porch door locked.

Officers had responded to the home on the 900 block of 10th Street in the city of Beloit on May 11 for a report of an unwanted person.

Rosenbaum had tried to leave after Rutherford asked her about the door, the complaint said. Police saw a black handle coming out of Rutherford's pocket, which looked like a kitchen knife handle. As Rutherford got into the van, police told him to stop. Police used an electronic control device to stop him, but Rutherford's baggy clothing made it ineffective.

Rosenbaum was standing in front of the passenger side of the van waving her hands. The van revved up while still in park, then went into gear and accelerated at a high speed, hitting Rosenbaum.

Two officers, identified Wednesday as David Elrod and Amy Copeland, fired at and struck Rutherford while he was in his car. The officers remain on administrative assignments during the investigation.

In the criminal complaint, police say Rutherford lost control turning a corner and hit a tree. That tree still stands in front of Timothy Baars’ house, minus some bark.

"I didn't know what I was walking into because basically, the only thing I knew is he hit my tree. I didn't know that he had run somebody over down here or that he was fighting for his life or anything," Baars said.

The sounds of gun shots, screeching tires, and a loud boom into his tree woke Baars up. When he walked outside, he saw Rutherford get out of the car, throw his keys, and start to run off. Baars said he dropped two knives as he fled.

"Adrenaline. That's basically all it was. Just adrenaline," Baars explained. "He wasn't getting away. He hit my tree, and I just went after him."

Baars chased Rutherford through yards, caught up to him, pinned him against a house, and held him there until police arrived.

The complaint says Rutherford held a razor to his neck before police used a Taser on Rutherford and took him into custody. Baars remembered that as well.

"Once you run into a tree that size, that alone should have been enough to stop you," Baars said. "You shouldn't have gotten out and ran like that."

Lab reports showed Rutherford had crack cocaine in his system, and the criminal complaint said Rutherford told police he had $20 of cocaine earlier May 11. He also told police he'd drank whiskey.

The cause of Rosenbaum's death was blunt-force trauma to the chest, which caused injuries to her heart, liver and lungs, plus a broken spine, multiple rib fractures and a broken pelvis, according to the complaint.

At the appearance Wednesday, Commissioner Larry Barton set a $100,000 cash bail. Rutherford is scheduled to appear in Rock County court Friday at 3 p.m.

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