Stillwater probationer dies in crash following escape

Marlo Pronovost

A woman who was just eight months into her 10-year probation on a Stillwater County case was killed in a car crash in California last week, after escaping from a Billings facility where she was serving a portion of her sentence.

Erica Pearce, 35, died after being taken to a trauma unit in Walnut Creek, Calif., on April 17, following a 2-vehicle crash. An arrest warrant had been issued for Pearce when she left the Billings facility, according to the Mercury News newspaper. The Stillwater County Attorney’s Office had been notified when Pearce initially escaped approximately 10 days prior.

Pearce was with a man — 27-year-old Jerome Dunks — who was also a wanted fugitive after having escaped from a minimum-security facility in Wyoming. The pair was in a stolen car from Wyoming and Dunks survived the crash.

The crash occurred at 5:10 a.m. when the pair moved from the northbound lane to the southbound lane, passed stopped cars and T-boned an SUV in an intersection. Both cars were totaled and the driver of the SUV was also taken to a hospital with injuries.

It is unknown how Pearce and Dunks knew each other, according to the Mercury News.


Pearce was serving a mandatory minimum 2-year sentence on a felony conviction of assault on a peace officer for intentionally driving towards a sheriff’s deputy during a multi-county high-speed chase in April 2017. She was also convicted of felony counts of criminal endangerment, forgery and criminal possession of dangerous drugs stemming from the same incident.

She had also been ordered to pay $742.97 in restitution to two Columbus businesses where she and co-defendant fraudulently obtained merchandise.

Pearce and the co-defendant lead police on a high-speed chase from Columbus to Carbon County after a Stillwater County Sheriff’s deputy tried to make a traffic stop in Columbus.

The chase entered Carbon County where Deputy Jeremy Neibauer was waiting with a set of spike strips. Pearce drove into the opposite lane of traffic towards Neibauer, prompting the deputy to run into the ditch to avoid getting hit. Neibauer was able to deploy a set of spike strips, and the chase ended approximately one mile later, according to court documents.

After obtaining a search warrant for the truck, Smith found substances that tested positive for heroin and methamphetamine, as well as several syringes.

Pearce was a six-time convicted felon, according to the Montana Department of Corrections Correctional Offender Network.