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Man sentenced to life in prison for role in multi-state crime spree in Washington and North Idaho

Jesse R. Spitzer, 30, of Sultan, pleaded guilty in July to 16 charges, most of them felonies. On Friday, he was sentenced to life in prison with 20 years fixed.

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — A man who led police on a weeklong, multi-state manhunt and later tried to escape from jail received a life sentence.

Jesse R. Spitzer, 30, of Sultan, Wash., pleaded guilty in July to 16 charges, most of them felonies, including four counts of aggravated assault, six counts of grand theft and one count of robbery, as reported by our news partners, the Coeur d'Alene Press.

First District Judge Lamont Berecz handed down a sentence on Friday of life in prison with 20 years fixed. That means Spitzer will be eligible for parole when he’s 50 years old.

The sentence is the result of a Rule 11 plea deal brokered by the prosecution and defense.

A Rule 11 plea agreement is a deal where the defendant pleads guilty to a certain charge in exchange for a certain sentence. A judge can accept or reject a Rule 11 agreement but cannot alter the terms.

In exchange for Spitzer’s guilty plea, the state dismissed 18 charges, including three counts of unlawful possession of a firearm, as well as a habitual offender enhancement.

Spitzer was arrested in January for a string of burglaries and vehicle thefts in Washington and North Idaho.

The crime spree began after he was suspected of stealing a vehicle in east Snohomish County on Jan. 21.

Police and K-9s chased Spitzer into the woods near Gold Bar, Wash., the following day, but he escaped. He reappeared after a car crash in Chelan County, evading authorities again.

After stealing a firearm from a vehicle in Post Falls, Spitzer led police on a foot chase and disappeared.

Officers from multiple agencies caught up with him in Kellogg the next night. He fled along eastbound I-90 in another stolen vehicle, reportedly shooting at police during the high-speed chase.

Spitzer continued into Wallace, where he carjacked a couple at gunpoint.

Law enforcement chased Spitzer over Lookout Pass and into Montana. Near the town of Haugan, he reportedly threatened officers with a handgun and bolted.

Police arrested Spitzer after finding him hiding in a camper near the $50,000 Silver Dollar Bar and Motel.

It wasn’t Spitzer’s first brush with the law.

In 2011, a 19-year-old Spitzer pleaded guilty to attempted murder after shooting at a sheriff’s sergeant while trying to avoid arrest in Nevada. He was sentenced to up to 22 years in prison.

After his arrest in Montana, Spitzer was booked into the Kootenai County jail and held on $1 million bail.

In April, he reportedly pried a leg off the metal desk in his cell and used it to smash the lock on the door. Upon noticing him outside his cell, staff locked down the jail and instituted inmate escape protocols.

Spitzer reportedly surrendered after law enforcement deployed sting ball grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas.

Judge Berecz ruled later that month that Spitzer was unfit to stand trial due to mental illness.

The court committed Spitzer to care and treatment at an Idaho Department of Correction facility. His competency was deemed restored in July.

Before handing down the sentence, Berecz said Spitzer’s crimes will have a lasting impact on his victims.

“It goes beyond money or loss of property,” he said. “There is a violation of self.”

Wallace resident Leigh Lutich Ligenza, whose car Spitzer stole at gunpoint, was present for the sentencing.

“I know he should be incarcerated, but it was very sad,” she said Monday. “He seemed genuinely remorseful and apologized several times throughout, even after the judgement. I remember thinking that I wished they had shot him that night. But it’s not that simple anymore.”

Though Spitzer will be eligible for parole in 20 years, Berecz noted that there is no guarantee of release.

“This is up to you and your willingness to engage in treatment,” he said. “Should you not, you are a risk to society and life is warranted.”

The Coeur d'Alene Press is a KREM 2 news partner. For more from our partners, click here.

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