County costs add up in kidnap-crash case

By Pat Caldwell

The Enterprise

VALE – Anthony Montwheeler is costing Malheur County a lot of money.

And he could end up costing taxpayers even more in the future.

Montwheeler, the Nampa man at the center of a deadly crash a month ago, is back in an area hospital for treatment after he was initially released from a Boise-area medical center and then lodged in the Malheur County Jail.

Montwheeler faces charges of aggravated murder, first-degree kidnaping and first degree assault related to a crash on Oregon Highway 201 that killed Vale resident David Bates, 38, and injured his wife, Jessica, 35.

Annita Harmon, 40, Montwheeler’s ex-wife, also died in the incident. Police said she had been kidnapped and stabbed before the crash.

Three weeks ago Montwheeler was transferred to the county jail and then arraigned in Malheur County Circuit Court. After that, however, medical personnel concluded his injuries required he go back to the hospital.’

“The doctors at the jail determined he was not healthy to be in the jail. He was only in jail a couple of days,” said Sheriff Brian Wolfe.

Montewheeler’s hospital visit means the sheriff’s office must provide a deputy for 24-hour security. That translates into big costs, Wolfe said.

“They (the deputies) are people that are on their days off so that means we are having to pay them overtime. That’s two people a day, 12-hour shifts,” he said.

Wolfe didn’t have precise numbers on the cost but estimated that the price tag for security for Montwheeler is about $1,000 a day.

“That is a conservative guess and would be just security alone,” he said.

Montwheeler entered the area hospital Jan. 28. By Feb. 15 the price tag for Montwheeler’s security will stand at about $18,000.

Not covered in that figure is the medical costs the Nampa man generates. Wolfe didn’t have a dollar number for costs the county may have to absorb. He said he hopes that Medicaid will pay for all or most of Montwheeler’s medical costs since he was taken into custody.

But that is not a guarantee. If Medicaid can’t cover the costs, the tab goes to the county. And that will take a sizeable bite out of the sheriff’s budget.

“We will have to reduce spending somewhere else in our budget. We sure didn’t budget for him,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe said his office is required by state and federal laws to medical care for Montwheeler.

“You really don’t have a choice,” he said.

Montwheeler is set for a pre-trial hearing at 10:45 a.m. Feb. 17 and a plea hearing Feb. 22.