EUCLID - Constance Vitantonio, 80, was bright and early for her Wednesday appearance in Willoughby Municipal Court. Euclid police documented her driving on dash cam the previous Saturday morning just before noon.
Police told Fox 8’s Lorrie Taylor Vitantonio was behind the wheel of a red car, seen on dash cam video, going more than 90 miles an hour.
“I couldn’t believe it was happening. I was shocked it actually happened. I thought she was going to stop and talk to us, which is all we really wanted to do in the first place,” said Willowick Patrolman Chris Olup.
The officer was responding to a shoplifting complaint at the Hallmark Store on Lakeshore Boulevard. He said he knocked on the woman’s car window after store employees pointed her out as the suspect. He said instead of rolling down her window, Vitantonio hit reverse, hit another car, nearly hit him and then hit the gas. All hopes of a conversation were lost.
The officer said he chased after Vitantonio as she darted in and out of traffic and through several red lights at speeds in excess of 90 miles per hour. His supervisor called off the pursuit in the name of safety but the 80-year-old was racing into nearby Euclid, so officers there picked up the chase.
Euclid dash cam video showed the elderly woman’s red car racing west onto Interstate 90 from the Babbitt Road on-ramp, where she could be seen nearly hitting a pair of motorcycles. Euclid’s officer realized other motorists were at risk and pulled off the highway. Vitantonio was gone but not forgotten thanks to her license plate.
“Approximately an hour later, I drove by her house,” said Willowick Sgt. Bob Prochazka.
He said he had a hunch he might find his suspect at home and there she was, sitting in a sun hat by her Eastlake door.
“I asked her for her first name. She said 'Connie.' I said, 'Connie, you’re under arrest and placed her in handcuffs, put her in my car,'" said the sergeant.
Prochazka said police records indicated this was not the elderly woman’s first encounter with law enforcement. He said Vitantonio had at least 25 misdemeanor cases on her record dating as far back as 1953, most of them for shoplifting.
The sergeant said this latest arrest will be a first for the high-speed octogenarian; fleeing and eluding is a felony offense. Vitantonio pled not guilty through her attorney. She declined to comment when reached at her home in Eastlake.