White sentenced to four years in prison for driving mower with revoked license

Originally Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2012, 8:44 pm
Last Updated: Jan. 24, 2012, 10:48 pm
Comment on this story | Print this story | Email this story
By Stephen Elliott, selliott@qconline.com

For the sixth time in his life, William "Pete" White is heading to the Illinois Department of Corrections.

A Mercer County judge sentenced the former Viola man Tuesday to four years in prison for driving with a revoked license back on July 18, 2011. Mr. White, 43, was arrested for driving a riding mower through town.

Mr. White's defense attorney, Dan Dalton, argued he never had seen someone sent to prison for driving a mower. Judge Greg Chickris said he also considered other factors, such as Mr. White's 57 prior convictions for various criminal felony and misdemeanor offenses, the first when he was 15 years old.

"He (Mr. White) was basically on a crime spree here," Judge Chickris said. "He has a horrendous history of prior delinquency and criminal activity."

This was Mr. White's 11th conviction for driving on a revoked license, according to Mercer County Probation and Court Services Director Vicky Hansen. He has been convicted six times for driving under the influence of alcohol, she said.

Judge Chickris also sentenced Mr. White to two years of probation for violating an order of protection in July and resisting arrest in August, both Class A misdemeanors. Mr. White also was ordered to pay $113 restitution to the Aledo Walmart for an August theft.

Although police have made no arrests, Mr. White remains under investigation for the Oct. 22 death of his estranged wife, Melissa White, who was found outside her Viola home with multiple skull fractures.

His wife had filed two orders of protection against him — one in 2009 and the second in July 2011 — and claimed he had "threatened to kill me." Months before her death, she also said Mr. White threatened to burn her house down and harassed her, her mother, her sister and two friends via text, phone calls and voice mail.

Witnesses Tuesday painted two different portraits of Pete White. His uncle, Don White, said his nephew was wonderful to his children, ages 6 and 4, and started to cry. "It was nothing but affection," he said.

His aunt, Betty White, of Sycamore, acknowledged Mr. White had a substance abuse problem she didn't condone but said he was a good father with his kids. "He adores them. He loves them," she said. "He was very good with them."

Other witnesses said Mr. White sent about a dozen threatening text messages and phone calls to his estranged wife and her friends. They ended with, "Kill Them All," said Viola Police Chief Tom Mulder.

Linda Schroeder, Mercer County's victim witness coordinator, testified Ms. White was in the courtroom Oct. 18 when Mr. White pleaded guilty to violating the most recent protection order. Ms. Schroeder said Mr. White glared at Ms. White, and she took the woman to her first floor courthouse office to get her away from her husband.

"He (Mr. White) was pacing out front looking into the window," Ms. Schroeder said. "We shut the blinds. We waited half an hour. A deputy walked her to her car."

Before his sentencing, Mr. White admitted he had made mistakes. He told Judge Chickris that most of the people in the courtroom wanted him to go back to prison.

"Anybody can send me to prison for four years," Mr. White told the judge. "There's no challenge in that. Give me a chance. I'm fighting for my kids. I'm fighting for me.

"I've got a strong will to survive," he said, acknowledging his substance abuse problem. "If not for me, then for my kids."

Mercer County State's Attorney Greg McHugh said Mr. White had a lengthy history of substance abuse and, since his October plea, had been caught out drinking several times.

"And who knows what else he's been doing," Mr. McHugh said. "When people use crack cocaine, they can get out of control real quick."

Judge Chickris agreed.

Mr. White smiled after the sentencing, turned to those behind him and swore as Mercer County Sheriff Tom Thompson walked across the room to handcuff him.

Outside, Ms. White's family and friends cried and mostly declined comment. Chris Brewer, one of her friends, said there was more to Ms. White's life than a bad marriage and fear of her husband.

"She was a wonderful person," Ms. Brewer said. "She was an artist, a free person, a beautiful soul.

"She was the mother that always took the time out to spend with her two kids. She set the table out for the tea party," Ms. Brewer said. "Melissa did that for her kids."



Local events heading

  Today is Saturday, April 19, the 109th day of 2014. There are 256 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: Miss McCorkindale has opened millinery rooms over Gimbel's dry goods store, where she offers a choice lot of millinery goods, which she will manufacture to order.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The little South Park Presbyterian chapel celebrated it first Easter decorated with flowers for an afternoon worship service attended by a large congregation.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Wennerberg Chorus of Augustana College has returned from a 2,000-mile tour in the Eastern states and Illinois.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Col. Charles Lindbergh has stated that he is convinced that Germany's air force is equal to the combined sky fleets of her potential European foes.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Small gas motors may be permitted on boats in the lake to be built in Loud Thunder Forest Preserve. The prospect was discussed yesterday at a meeting of the Rock Island County Forest Preserve Commission.
1989 -- 25 years ago: The annual Dispatch/Rock Island Argus Spelling Bee continues to be a family tradition. Ed Lee, an eighth-grader at John Deere Junior High School, Moline, is the 1989 spelling bee champion from among 49 top spellers in Rock Island, Henry and Mercer counties. He advances to the competition in Washington, D.C. Runnerup was Ed's sister, Susan.

(More History)