A 40-year-old Ketchikan man has been arrested for allegedly driving his truck into Holy Name Church Thursday afternoon, causing extensive damage before fleeing the scene.
According to court documents, Dale Withem allegedly struck a vehicle a short time later, and fled that scene, as well.
The complaint filed in court by Ketchikan Police Officer Vincent Kowalski states that an eyewitness saw a black Ford F250 drive three or four car lengths in front of Holy Name Catholic Church, and then reverse “full throttle” into the building’s front doors. The witness was able to identify the license plate for officers, and the truck is registered to Withem. That incident took place at around 3:30 p.m.
According to Alaska State Troopers, sometime between 4 and 5 p.m., another hit-and-run on North Tongass Highway damaged the front passenger side of a white Toyota pickup truck. According to court documents, it appeared that a vehicle had backed into the white truck, leaving behind black paint. Withem is related to the white truck’s owners, according to troopers.
Alaska State Troopers found the black Ford truck with damaged taillights and the identified license plate parked at a North Tongass residence. The complaint states that when troopers contacted Withem, he admitted to crashing into the church, and allegedly told troopers that he did it on purpose.
The complaint states that Withem’s 4-year-old daughter was in the front passenger seat of the truck at the time. And the church’s priest was in his office, about 30 feet from the front doors.
Withem was charged with two counts of third-degree felony criminal mischief; and two counts of misdemeanor reckless endangerment. There are no allegations of alcohol or drug use related to the incidents. Family members allegedly told troopers that Withem had recently had mental health problems and believed people were out to get him.
The complaint estimates damage to the church at $15,000. Damage to the white pickup is estimated at $2,500.
Withem had his first court appearance on the charges Friday morning. District Court Judge Kevin Miller appointed the public defender to represent Withem, and set bail at $5,000.