Claysville woman accused of driving drunk with children in vehicle

December 9, 2013
Elizabeth Burwell

A Claysville woman was arrested Saturday night by Peters Township police on charges she drove while intoxicated with her two young children in the vehicle.

Elizabeth Ann Burwell, 31, of 171 Oak Springs Road, also faces a charge of resisting arrest for allegedly struggling with the officer as he tried to place handcuffs on her.

Officer Patrick Mazzotta was on patrol in the 800 block of Venetia Road about 8:15 p.m. when he noticed the vehicle traveling behind his cruiser had the high beams on, according to court documents filed with District Judge Valarie Costanzo. He also noticed the vehicle cross the center line four times.

Mazzotta pulled his cruiser over to the side to allow the other driver, later identified as Burwell, to pass. She reportedly almost struck the cruiser as she drove by and crossed a set of railroad tracks.

The officer initiated a traffic stop as she drove into Finleyville. Mazzotta said Burwell’s 6-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son were in the back seat of the vehicle. He said Mazzotta indicated she was hesitant to answer his questions, and he had to ask her three times for her driver’s license. Burwell reportedly told the officer her children were playing with her purse in the back seat, but Mazzotta said he could see it on the front passenger seat. He said he also could smell alcohol.

Mazzotta said he told Burwell to put her vehicle in park and that she insisted it was, even though it was still in gear. The officer said that as he went back to his cruiser, she started to drive slowly away until he activated the siren on his cruiser.

When Mazzotta again approached the vehicle, he said he saw Burwell reach down, and he could see a kitchen knife under the seat. He told her to put her hands on the steering wheel and reached in and pulled her out of the vehicle. She allegedly struggled with him as he tried to handcuff her and place her in the cruiser.

The children were released to Burwell’s mother-in-law.

Burwell was twice given an opportunity to perform a breath test on a machine at the North Strabane Township police station but failed to follow instructions to give an adequate sample, police said. She was deemed to have refused a test.

Burwell was arraigned before District Judge Valarie Costanzo on two counts of endangering the welfare of children and one count each of driving under the influence, driving with a suspended license and resisting arrest. She was released from Washington County jail Sunday after posting $10,000 bond. A preliminary hearing is set for Dec. 20 before District Judge James Ellis.

Kathie O. Warco has covered the police beat and transportation for the Observer-Reporter for more than 25 years. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism.

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