Malheur County kidnap, chase end in crash with 2 dead

Workers secure the wrecked car for towing at the scene of the crash that killed two people Monday.

By John L. Braese

The Enterprise

ONTARIO – A 49-year-old Idaho man is being held while an investigation continues into a kidnapping and subsequent two-vehicle crash that left two people dead.

The incident started as an assault and kidnapping Monday morning, authorities said at a news conference. At 6:51 a.m., a 911 caller reported seeing a woman being stabbed in the parking lot of the J&J Convenience Store, 330 E. Idaho Ave. in Ontario.

Responding, Ontario police saw a black 2014 Dodge Ram pickup leaving the scene with two people inside. Police followed the pickup through Ontario to Highway 201.

While pursuing the pickup, police saw the it cross the centerline in foggy and icy conditions and strike a 2001 Ford Excursion head on. The collision occurred near Southwest 18th Avenue.

At a news conference Monday, Malheur County District Attorney David Goldthorpe identified the driver of the pickup as Anthony W. Montwheeler of Nampa. He said charges against Montwheeler are pending a grand jury proceeding.

On Tuesday, authorities identified the kidnapping victim as Annita S. Harmon, 40, of Weiser. Court records show she is divorced from Montwheeler. Authorities didn’t disclose whether she died from the stabbing or the crash.

Police also on Tuesday identified the couple  in the Excursion as David J. Bates, 38, of Vale, who died at the scene, and his wife, Jessica, 35.

She was seriously injured and treated initially at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario and later was transferred to Boise. Police said she was in stable condition.

Both are employed by Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario. A Vale church pastor, Phil Abbott, has also confirmed the couple were involved in the incident.

The Ontario Police Department is investigating the stabbing, and the Oregon State Police are investigating the fatal crash.

Police seized both vehicles along with an abandoned vehicle found in Weiser in the middle of a street and are awaiting search warrants.

Police also said that Montwheeler and Harmon had a previous connection and it was not a stranger-to-stranger crime. They did not disclose the relationship.

By Tuesday morning, the online GoFundMe account for the Bates had collected more than $29,000 in donations to cover family expenses. The money came from more than 300 donors, several who left comments about Dave Bates on the page.

“You couldn’t help but to have a smile on your face in his presence,” wrote Marlea Osterhout-Rowley. “He positively emanated his great character.”

“David was a wonderful guy and will be missed by everyone who knew him,” wrote Heather Morgan, who identified herself as a former classmate of Bates.

“Dave had a heart of gold and was an amazing selfless man,” wrote Courtney Fulgenzi.

Authorities expect to release more as the investigation continues. The Enterprise will carry updates on Facebook and in the next print editions.