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Officer J. Houchin said he went to a hotel parking lot after someone complained of a man and woman fighting in a white van parked there, before 9 p.m. on January 3, 2013.

The Escondido police officer said he was just pulling up to the lot of the Mount Vernon Inn when a white van started up its engine, and drove toward him. The officer said he used a spot-light to see a woman driving the van and a man in the front passenger seat, when the vehicle passed him, and left the lot. The officer said the female driver ignored the red light and siren of his patrol vehicle, and a pursuit began on West Mission Avenue.

The van traveled on to Escondido Boulevard and El Norte Parkway, “it was at high speeds, unsafe speeds,” the officer said. At one point the fleeing vehicle crossed a raised, center median and drove into oncoming traffic, officer Houchin said, “which forced those other vehicles off the road.”

After an 18-mile pursuit, the white van came to a stop “after being spike-stripped,” according to the officer. He testified at a preliminary hearing today, in San Diego’s North County Superior Courthouse.

Judge Kathleen Lewis ordered Melanie Darlene Jose, 28, to answer one felony charge of evading officer with wanton disregard for public safety. The judge ordered the defendant’s face obscured in photographs. Melanie Darlene Jose pleads not guilty, and is next expected in court on February 20.

The male passenger in the van reportedly fled the vehicle after it stopped, but was apprehended with the aid of a police canine. That person was not part of today’s hearing.

Image: Judge Lewis and Officer Houchin in court. Photo Weatherston

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