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Man accused of pushing woman from vehicle pleads no contest

Deputies originally accused him of attempted murder while seeking him for six months
News Editor
   March 12, 2003 — A man sheriff's detectives originally sought for attempted murder pleaded no contest Monday to second-degree attempted assault. He will not face prison time.
   Wendell Switzler, 37, of Warm Springs, was given credit for time served and will be placed on probation for three years. He's spent 120 days in the Jefferson County Jail since November.
   On April 10 of last year, Switzler took a woman suffering from a serious head injury, road rash and hairline fractures in her rear eye socket, shoulder blade, collarbone and spine to Mountain View Hospital.
   Switzler identified himself to hospital staff under a false name, left the woman in the hospital's care and evaded officers for six months after they issued a warrant seeking his arrest for allegedly pushing her out of a vehicle traveling at high speeds.
   By the time Switzler was apprehended in November, the warrant had been reduced from attempted murder to first-degree assault and two counts of second-degree assault. But state prosecutors had a weak case that relied mostly on statements the victim had given to hospital staff and a sheriff's deputy the night she was taken by Air Life from Mountain View Hospital to St. Charles Medical Center because of a fractured skull.
   On Monday, Switzler choked back tears as he explained his version of how the victim sustained her injuries.
   He told Judge Daniel Ahern the woman in his company was highly intoxicated and jumped out of his vehicle while they were traveling on the back roads of Agency Plains.
   "She tried to get out of the vehicle, so I reached over and tried to pull her back in," Switzler explained. "I said, 'What are you doing?'"
   Moments later, Switzler continued, "The light came on, I looked over again and she was gone."
   Roger DeHoog, Switzler's court-appointed attorney, said prosecutors were doing their job by advocating the victim's position but never were absolutely certain of how the incident occurred.
   "All we know is she was seriously injured, my client feels bad for that and has taken responsibility for any role he may have had," DeHoog said.
   Under a no contest plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but concedes he could be convicted by a jury based on the prosecution's evidence.
   Therefore, Chief Deputy District Attorney Steven Leriche detailed the testimony that three witnesses would have given if the case had not ended in a negotiated settlement, which tossed out three assault charges in favor of one count of second-degree attempted assault, a class C felony.
   The state's strongest argument would have been the victim's initial statements to hospital staff upon arriving at the hospital -- that she had been grabbed by the hair and forced out of the car.
   However, Leriche said the victim later told investigators she could not accurately recollect what occurred.
   "The victim had gotten to be a little reluctant to testify," Leriche said.
   Further, there were no witnesses to the incident beside Switzler and the victim, Leriche said.
   Although Switzler will not face prison time related to this case, he faces unrelated warrants in Multnomah and Deschutes counties. He remains lodged at the Jefferson County Jail pending transport.