- (Photo: Courtesy Riverside County Sheriff's Department)
Jerimiah Clyde Hartline pled guilty to three counts and one allegation of causing great bodily injury yesterday. Hartline initially told police that was running away from zombies that were clinging to the side of the vehicle he stole.
Hartline stole the big-rig from a commercial truck scale on April 6 and began driving erratically. He swerved back and forth, hitting multiple vehicles and causing a chain-reaction of crashes. Hartline's driving eventually led to the big-rig overturning and spilling its load of strawberries, which were mostly unharmed and donated to local food pantries and nonprofits.
"It was a complete mess," Officer Nathan Baer said at the time.
He decided to take a plea deal and avoid a sentence of up to 12 years. Hartline was charged with assault with a deadly weapon; hit and run causing death or injury; and vehicle theft. He could serve a sentence of up to five years and will learn his fate on June 24. Until then, Hartline remains in the custody of the Southwest Detention Center in French Valley.
Police have not said whether Hartline's hallucinations were caused by drugs or possible mental illness. He was taken to the hospital immediately following his arrest and then booked into the jail. Seven people were injured as a result of Hartline's erratic behavior.
Hartline allegedly stowed away in the big-rig and remained hidden for approximately 100 miles. Once he revealed himself, the truck driver allowed him to remain in the truck since they were acquaintances. However, once the driver pulled over at the truck scale, Hartline made a move and took over the truck, pulling away before the driver had a chance to reclaim the vehicle.
After the big-rig overturned, Hartline attempted to flee the scene by stealing the van of a man who stopped to help him. The driver managed to pull him out of the van, and bystanders helped keep Hartline detained until police arrived on the scene.