Zehm used pepper spray on wife - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Zehm used pepper spray on wife

He pleaded with her to drop charges before chase, suicide

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Posted: Wednesday, January 4, 2012 12:15 am

COEUR d'ALENE - Daniel J. Zehm, who was accused of trying to light his wife on fire in late November, used pepper spray and a gun on New Year's Eve to kidnap her at the Dalton Gardens home they previously shared.

He then forced her into a van and took her on a two-hour ride, pleading with her along the way to drop felony charges against him. They drove to Harrison and back, and up Fernan Lake Road to the Fernan Saddle and back to Coeur d'Alene.

Those are some of the latest details released Tuesday by the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department. Zehm, 52, ended a police pursuit Saturday night when he stopped the van he was driving and shot himself on Sherman Avenue.

The position of his vehicle suggested he was about to get on the eastbound Interstate 90 on-ramp to head toward Kellogg. The last thing he likely saw that night was the lights of a Tesoro gas station. Shards of glass from the van remained in the street Tuesday.

His wife, Sondra G. Zehm, filed for divorce on Dec. 7, citing "extreme cruelty," following the Nov. 20 incident at their Dalton Gardens home. That's when he drenched her with gasoline and threatened her with a lighter, allegedly flicking it as he approached her, according to court documents. They were married Nov. 6, 2009.

He was charged with battery with the intent to commit a serious felony, for the gasoline-lighter incident.

A judge ordered that Zehm have no contact with his wife, though he walked right through that order last month and was charged with a misdemeanor no contact order violation.

The sheriff's department said Zehm initially pepper sprayed his wife in the face Saturday, then tried to help wash it off her face, right before forcing her into a van. He was armed with a gun.

The sheriff's department received a call about 10:15 p.m. Saturday from a relative of the Zehms', informing the authorities that Daniel Zehm had kidnapped Sondra Zehm and had a gun.

Daniel Zehm had told the relative that he was in the Fernan area and was headed to Kellogg.

Sheriff's deputies and Idaho State Police officers began looking for the Zehms.

About 11 p.m. Saturday, Daniel Zehm saw the deputies who were trying to stop him on Fernan Road near the Fernan Saddle. He then fled downhill, back toward Coeur d'Alene.

At one point, when he had slowed considerably for a sharp corner on the icy road, Sondra Zehm was able to get out of the car uninjured.

Daniel Zehm continued back toward Coeur d'Alene, at times reaching speeds of 90 miles per hour.

Deputies slowed considerably behind him due to the road conditions.

As he reached the Fernan Village he ran over a spike strip that had been stretched across the road by the Idaho State Police.

Both front tires on the van were blown out.

His vehicle stopped in the middle of Sherman, right in front of the I-90 on ramp.

Deputies then found Zehm in the vehicle, having shot himself in the head.

Emergency medical personnel arrived a few minutes later and confirmed that Zehm was deceased.

Sheriff's department spokesman Maj. Ben Wolfinger said the investigation is on-going.

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