Man involved in hit-and-run, high-speed chase found not guilty by reason of insanity

MARION COUNTY — A 58-year-old man Nevada man arrested last year after leading multiple agencies on a high-speed chase across Marion County, has been found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Suspect's vehicle following hit-and-run, high-speed chase. (Credit: Mitchell Schultheis)
Suspect’s vehicle following hit-and-run, high-speed chase.
(Credit: Mitchell Schultheis)

Immediately following his arrest, a bona fide doubt was quickly raised about the mental fitness of Jeffrey Freeman Johnston.

Johnston is allegedly responsible for hitting a 63-year-old pedestrian Ernie Whipple Sr. in Salem and subsequently leading law enforcement on a high-speed car chase across Marion County.

Johnston had been charged with Class 2 felony failure to report an accident with an injury and Class 4 felony aggravated fleeing through more than 2 traffic control devices.

He reportedly struck Whipple as he was walking across South Broadway at Mitchell Street in Salem. Whipple was initially airlifted to a St. Louis area hospital, but was ultimately released.

Johnston then fled from the scene, taking multiple law enforcement agencies on a wild high-speed chase across Marion County.

A Centralia police sergeant eventually used a “pit maneuver,” causing the defendant’s vehicle to crash down a steep embankment on Highway 161 on Centralia’s west side, before coming to rest in the field below.

Court records show that throughout court proceedings Johnston made no response or any acknowledgment of anything going on.

Based on that and reported conduct by the state, Judge Mark Stedelin ordered a mental fitness evaluation of Johnston to be completed and Johnston was remanded to the custody of the Department of Human Services for the preparation of a treatment plan.

DHS soon found Johnston unfit to stand trial, and treatment was recommended to help him achieve fitness, however he was found today to be not guilty by reason of insanity. The court ordered DHS to hold Johnston until further order of the court.