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A man who was caught trying to steal property from a Defiance auto dealer, along with two other persons, was sentenced to prison Wednesday morning in Defiance County Common Pleas Court.

Christian Malzahn, 23, Springfield, was given a 58-month prison term Wednesday by Judge Joseph Schmenk on charges of failure to comply with an order or signal of a police officer, a third-degree felony; grand theft of a motor vehicle, a fourth-degree felony; and breaking and entering, a fifth-degree.

He will be eligible for early judicial release after serving six months of his sentence.

A restitution amount is still to be determined for damages to the victim, Stykemain Buick GMC, 25124 Elliott Road, according to Schmenk.

The charges alleged that on Jan. 20, Malzahn and two co-defendants — Kaleigh Fletcher, 20, Springfield, and Barryn McDonnell, 22, Rolla, Mo. — were found participating in a breaking and entering at the vehicle dealership by a Defiance County Sheriff’s deputy. While Fletcher and McDonnell were taken into custody, Malzahn fled in a stolen vehicle.

He was pursued by Defiance police, heading out of town and crossing into Henry County and Wood County, where he was stopped by a spike strip — placed on the road by authorities to puncture the vehicle’s tires — and taken into custody.

Defiance County Sheriff Doug Engel said one of his deputies (Gary Taylor) was conducting a routine business after hours check at Stykemain on Jan. 20 — something local enforcement officers regularly do — when he came upon the suspects. He teamed with city police to locate the fleeing vehicle.

“Obviously, we’re very proud of the deputy’s actions, along with the city police officer’s actions that evening,” said Engel, who also praised the county’s 911 communications center, and noted authorities’ ability to stay in contact with other jurisdictions during the pursuit due to the new MARCS radio system.

Both he and Defiance County Prosecutor Morris Murray indicated that the defendants had come through northwest Ohio for the purpose of stealing vehicles.

As for Malzahn, Murray said “he cooperated once he got caught. Leading them (authorities) on that chase created a substantial risk of harm, but once he was stopped he did cooperate. He basically acknowledged his participation in these crimes and took responsibility.”

Malzahn’s attorney, Steve Sondergaard of Defiance, said the sentence was a “fair outcome, given the circumstances.”

Charges against Fletcher and McDonnell are pending in Defiance County Common Pleas Court.

Wednesday’s sentencing took place by video conferencing from the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio due to new procedures introduced to address concerns about the coronavirus.

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