Man suspected of stealing car he crashed

A 36-year-old Freeland man is facing charges for stealing a vehicle.

A 36-year-old Freeland man is facing charges for stealing a vehicle and driving it with a suspended license shortly after being released from jail, according to court documents.

Fredrick Van Benschoten, IV, appeared in Island County Superior Court April 12. A judge found probable cause existed to believe he may have committed the crimes of theft of a motor vehicle, possession of a stolen vehicle and driving while license suspended in the second degree.

If convicted of the crimes against him, Van Benschoten could spend 17 to 22 months in jail under the standard sentencing range.

Van Benschoten is set to appear before the court again on May 6.

A deputy from the Island County Sheriff’s Office responded to the report of a stolen car at a Coupeville gas station on Jan. 19. According to the report, a woman had left her Jeep Cherokee running while she was in the convenience store for less than 10 minutes and discovered that it was gone when she came out.

A sergeant with the sheriff’s office reviewed security camera footage from the convenience store and recognized the man taking the car as Van Benschoten. The deputy recalled that Van Benschoten might still be in jail, but the sergeant checked and learned that the suspect had been released within the last two hours. Surveillance video from the jail of Van Benschoten leaving matched that of him at the gas station.

Van Benschoten’s whereabouts were unknown until March 8, when another sergeant from the sheriff’s office was dispatched to a car accident on Hoffman Road. According to the sergeant’s report, the stolen Jeep Cherokee was on its side in the ditch. The sergeant, who was familiar with Van Benschoten’s past antics, immediately recognized him in the driver’s seat.

Van Benschoten was airlifted due to the severity of his injuries. The sergeant noticed that the car had old license plates on it that did not match those of the current owner, which would have made the vehicle appear as if the registration were expired and not stolen.

Prosecutors charged Van Benschoten two years ago with possession of a stolen vehicle after police found him and a woman sleeping inside a pilfered car.