AUGUSTA — A Pennsylvania couple arrested after a high-speed chase Thusday night through Vassalboro, Winslow and China that ended with a vehicle fire and a break-in appeared Friday morning in front of a judge, who called the case “a bit bizarre.”

Jessica Rohwer, 37, of Scott Township, Pennsylvania, is charged with burglary, assault and theft. Her husband, Robert Rohwer, 33, also of Scott Township, is charged with eluding an officer, driving to endanger and motor vehicle speeding up to 108 mph.

Authorities allege they found $38,000 in cash on Jessica, who later claimed in the hospital that “people are after them.”

Judge Paul Mathews, who sat at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta, conducted the hearings via video with the Kennebec County jail.

The chase began on Riverside Drive in Vassalboro, according to an affidavit by Deputy Jeffrey Boudreau, of the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office. The deputy said he saw a white Ford Expedition pass him going north at an estimated 100 mph and then almost collide with a southbound vehicle while passing another motorist.

Boudreau said he turned on his emergency lights and siren to try to get the sport utility vehicle to stop, even as he witnessed five “near head-on collisions” with other cars.


He broke off the pursuit in Winslow, where police there took up the chase until the vehicles reached Lakeview Drive in China.

Shortly afterward, Boudreau said, he got a report of a vehicle on fire at Fire Road 28 in China, and he identified it as the one he had been chasing. He could not get inside immediately because three dogs were in it. An animal control officer removed them later.

Police started to track the occupants using a police dog and then got a 911 call that a woman “was acting crazy and saying people were out to get her.”

Homeowners later told police that a Lakeview Drive couple said a woman later identified as Jessica Rohwer broke in, took keys to their Jeep, and started it up. The homeowner then pulled her out of it.

Robert Rohwer was arrested there as well. Both were taken to MainGeneral Medical Center in Augusta for evaluation and treatment.

Boudreau said Jessica Rohwer talked to him at the hospital, saying she and her husband wanted to buy property off Tucker Ridge Road and she had $38,000 in cash on her for the transaction.


She also said they were “trying to move from Pennsylvania because people are after them” and had been trying to run them off the road.

Boudreau said Rohwer said they were former methamphetamine addicts but had been clean for eight years.

She also told him she had been driving an F-550 dump truck and abandoned it at an unknown house.

Boudreau wrote that he believed they were both under the influence of drugs, possibly methamphetamine.

Police found $38,200 in cash in Rohwer’s fanny packs as well as checks in her wallet made out to several people.

Sheriff’s deputies said they contacted the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement division about the cash seizure because of possible “interstate bulk money laundering.”


As Mathews read the charges to Jessica Rohwer, she leaned toward attorney Stephen Bourget, serving as lawyer of the day, and said, “That’s just not true.”

Bourget told Mathews that Rohwer was looking for land in Maine and was “quite distraught during these incidents because she thought someone was after her and chasing her and that’s why she went to this house.”

Mathews set bail at $20,000 cash for Jessica Rohwer, with conditions that prohibit her from having alcohol, illegal drugs and dangerous weapons. He refused to impose conditions requested by the state that would prohibit her from having contact with her husband and from leaving Maine.

Mathews set bail for Robert Rohwer at $50,000 cash with similar conditions.

Assistant District Attorney David Spencer said Rohwer has prior criminal convictions, spent more than two years in prison for at least one offense and has three outstanding warrants for his arrest from Washington state.

Attorney Brad Grant, acting as lawyer of the day for Robert Rohwer, said the state listed two different dates of birth for Rohwer and that the only evidence that he was the driver apparently is the fact that he had the keys in his pocket when he was arrested. Grant also said that Rohwer was in business and recently had moved items to a storage unit in Brewer.


Mathews said he found probable cause in Boudreau’s affidavit to believe that Robert Rohwer was the driver, but the judge urged the state to check into the status of the warrants. Mathews also said the bail could be reviewed once an attorney is appointed to represent Robert Rohwer.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

Twitter: @betadams

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