Janesville76.4°

Woman burns car, threatens self after chase

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Stacy Vogel
September 27, 2009

Local authorities might have saved a woman from herself Saturday morning after a bizarre freeway chase ended in arson south of Janesville.


Leah M. Pospisil, 28, led officers on a chase down Interstate 90/39 that reached speeds higher than 100 mph before lighting her car on fire and apparently threatening to set fire to herself, according to a news release from the Rock County Sheriff’s Office.


The incident started at 4:10 a.m. on Clear Lake Road west of Milton. Sheriff’s deputies and Edgerton and Milton police were dispatched after Pospisil’s mother called to report Pospisil was threatening the family with a gas can over a child-custody dispute, the release says.


Pospisil, who was thought to be living in Chicago, fled in a tan Volkswagen that was reported stolen out of Chicago, the release says.


At 4:30 a.m., a Janesville officer saw the vehicle pulling south out of a parking lot on Milton Avenue near Humes Road. When Pospisil saw a squad car behind her, she ran a red light, looped the car around a parking lot and got onto northbound Milton Avenue before getting onto the southbound I-90 onramp, the release says.


Janesville squads chased the car a few miles before a Rock County deputy deployed stop-sticks near the Racine Street ramp, flattening the VW’s tires.


Pospisil stopped the vehicle a couple of miles further south and opened the door.


“Then in full view of the officers behind her, she poured gasoline all over the interior of the vehicle,” the release says. She closed the door and drove slowly south with officers following at a safe distance.


A short time later, she stopped the vehicle again, got out and dumped gasoline on the exterior of the car before dumping it on herself, the release says. She lit the trunk of the car with a butane lighter, then ran down the Interstate, it says.


Officers chased Pospisil on foot, knocking her to the ground and dislodging the lighter from her hand, the release says.


No one was injured in the encounter.


Janesville firefighters controlled the fire, but the VW probably is a total loss, the release says.


Authorities closed the Interstate until about 5:30 a.m. as they arrested Pospisil, put out the fire and had the car towed.


Pospisil was taken to Mercy Hospital, Janesville, for medical clearance.


She was arrested on charges of fleeing arrest, arson, reckless driving, disorderly conduct and a warrant alleging battery, the release says. Vehicle theft charges are pending out of Chicago.



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