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Man sentenced to 19 years for driving rampage

A parolee who was high on meth- amphetamine and afraid of imaginary assassins when he commandeered two vehicles and crashed into several others near Turlock High School was sentenced Thursday to 19 years, eight months in prison.

Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Donald Shaver imposed the maximum sentence allowed under a plea deal negotiated last month, saying Kyle Gene Purdy's drug-induced psychosis is not a defense, though he did not intend to harm anyone.

Purdy, 41, was delusional and talking to a tree shortly before his crime spree, prompting California Highway Patrol officers to drop him off at the Stanislaus County Behavioral Health Center, where he was detained for less than an hour.

He addressed the court before the judge handed down his sentence, saying he is sorry for ramming into a car carrying a mother with two small children, stealing a truck from a man who stopped to help and sideswiping other cars during his 12-minute driving rampage that began at 6:46 a.m. Dec. 7, 2004.

He also said he is thankful that the police didn't kill him after he smashed into two patrol cars. But he added that the system should share some of the blame, because no one would have been harmed if he had been treated or sent to jail for violating his parole.

"I don't remember most of what happened," Purdy said.

After the judge handed down the stiff sentence, Purdy said he will appeal his conviction, a right he reserved when he accepted a plea deal.

"I believed I would get under 15 years," Purdy said.

Purdy, who has been to prison four times for drug and sex offenses, had been on parole for five days when CHP officers spotted him wandering on Geer Road. He was behaving erratically, so they took him to the county mental health clinic in Modesto for an evaluation.

He could have been detained for 72 hours if he were a danger to himself or others. The clinic released him in less than an hour, when Purdy's girlfriend came to pick him up.

Madelyn Schlaepfer, associate director for Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, said referrals are made whenever anyone asks for help, but strong evidence of a threat is required to detain someone against his or her will.

As they returned to Turlock, Purdy argued with his girlfriend, who fled the vehicle. He then drove her car to Johnson Road and Zinfandel Lane, where the chain reaction of collisions began.

No one hospitalized

Richard Lindo saw the scene as he was driving to work and stopped to help, because he believed there had been an accident. Purdy punched him several times and stole his truck, which broke down at Marshall Street and Minaret Avenue, where Purdy was arrested.

Purdy told police he feared people were aiming a grenade launcher, a semiautomatic gun and other weapons at him. Several motorists suffered minor injuries, but none was hospitalized.

The district attorney's office charged Purdy with two counts of attempted murder of a police officer, five counts of attempted murder, three counts of hit-and-run driving, two counts of carjacking and attempting to evade police while driving recklessly.

Purdy initially pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity; his attorney said Purdy has a documented history of schizophrenia and drug use.

As his trial approached, Purdy pleaded no contest to two counts of assault with a deadly weapon on police officers, five counts of assault with a deadly weapon, two counts of carjacking, three counts of hit-and-run with injury and one count of felony evading arrest.

Defense attorney Larry T. Cole argued that his client should receive concurrent sentences, because his actions were part of one crime spree and could have been averted if clinicians had addressed Purdy's mental health needs. He recommended nine years in prison.

Deputy District Attorney John R. Mayne said Purdy should receive consecutive sentences for each victim, because he chose to use methamphetamine and crashed into people who caused him no harm. He recommended 19 years, eight months in prison, which the judge imposed.

Lindo, the good Samaritan who was carjacked when he stopped to help, addressed the court, saying Purdy deserves the maximum sentence and more.

An insurance settlement was not enough to replace the truck, leaving the Lindo family with one car. More importantly, Purdy destroyed Lindo's sense of security.

"I would stop for anyone in need of help if I had the time," Lindo said. "But now I can't take that risk."

Bee staff writer Susan Herendeen can be reached at sherendeen@modbee.com or 578-2338.

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