HELENA, Mont. - A Montana Army National Guardsman facing felony sex charges in Lewis and Clark County has been charged in federal court after failing to appear at a district court hearing.
The Independent Record reports (http://bit.ly/WboSCM) that Sgt. Jeffrey Lane Wenzel, 38, was charged Jan. 30 in federal court with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Prosecutors say Wenzel might be in Canada.
Wenzel is charged with a felony sex crime against a minor, plus two counts of sexual abuse of a child involving inappropriate photographs of the girl. His trial was scheduled to start Jan. 22 in Helena.
Prosecutors say Wenzel left his truck at the Glacier Park International Airport outside Kalispell with a note to his wife saying he couldn't get a fair trial.
"I will not be put in jail or prison for crimes I did not commit," Wenzel wrote. "Sorry for leaving you with all this trouble. Tell (the National Guard) that I am sorry, but I quit to save my life. . Remember that tomorrow is another day."
He also sent a text message Jan. 15 to his commanding officer saying he wouldn't be returning to work.
Lewis and Clark County prosecutors have added felony bail jumping to the original charges. A judge issued a warrant for his arrest with a bond of $500,000.
Wenzel is considered absent without leave from the Guard, which has led to suspending his pay. Maj. Tim Crowe, a Guard spokesman, said the Guard is working to help find Wenzel.
"The Montana National Guard is taking action in accordance with regulations to address the wilful absence of Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Wenzel," Crowe said.
Information from: Independent Record, http://www.helenair.com
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