Thomas Wirth


An Idaho Falls man who stole a car and fled from law enforcement was sentenced to prison Monday.

District Judge Dane Watkins Jr. cited Thomas Wirth's criminal history in choosing a prison sentence rather than retained jurisdiction.

Wirth, 42, was first arrested in April after the owners of the dirt bike reported someone had broken into their shop and attempted to steal the motorcycle.

Bonneville County Sheriff's Office deputies found a car nearby that had been reported stolen. Wirth was hiding in a canal 85 yards from the car. The overnight low was 23 degrees on the night Wirth was apprehended. He was taken to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center for evaluation.   

Wirth later escaped custody after he was picked up from the hospital by kicking out a patrol car's window while still wearing handcuffs and leg irons. He was found in another car and an Idaho Falls Police Department officer had to use a Taser to subdue him.

Wirth pleaded guilty to burglary. Charges of grand theft and possession of burglary tools were dropped as part of the plea agreement.

Bonneville County Deputy Prosecutor Tyler Dodge cited the evidence against Wirth, including that his belongings were found in the stolen car. Dodge also noted that Wirth has an extensive criminal history including eight prior felonies.

Wirth told a presentence investigator he was high on methamphetamine when he tried to steal the dirt bike and that drugs were his primary motivator.

Dodge said Wirth had been given several opportunities to change himself and that his repeated crimes warranted prison.

"There isn't an opportunity the court could offer him that he hasn't already had," Dodge said.

Defense Attorney Rocky Wixom said there was, in fact, one opportunity Wirth hadn't tried yet. He argued his client should be allowed to enter a rider program.

"He knows he is in a difficult spot here," Wixom said. "He knows what his record is."

Wirth talked about the problems drugs have caused him, saying he wants to be free of his addiction.

"Your Honor, I've spent my whole life caught up in addiction, and I've caused a whole lot of pain," Wirth said.

"I'm so tired of hurting people," he later added.

Watkins noted the presence of Wirth's family in the courtroom, telling him it was "remarkable" they continued to stand by him. The judge said part of him wanted to "throw his hands in the air" and give up on Wirth, but he believed Wirth was sincere in his desire to turn his life around and that it was still possible for him.

Watkins sentenced Wirth to a minimum of two years in prison with a maximum term of 10 years.

Reporter Johnathan Hogan can be reached at 208-542-6746.