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Kansas City man
with felony DWI

by Valerie Verkamp
Landmark assistant editor

Hours after being served liquor at a Northland restaurant, a man allegedly gets behind the wheel and collides with another vehicle.

J.W. Burton Rothwell, 39, of Kansas City is being charged with a class D felony for driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident.

The accident occurred Nov. 30, 2011 hours after Rothwell allegedly left Margaritas restaurant, where his wife worked.

The incident is nearly three years old. Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said the current charges against Rothwell were filed after witnesses to the alleged crimes were located.

It is not uncommon for charges to be filed only after witnesses can be located. And, in some instances, prosecutors file cases which are later dismissed until witnesses can be located.

According to witnesses’ accounts described in court papers, the driver of a dark painted full size Dodge pickup truck marked with the name Ace Tree Service hit the driver's side of another vehicle, forcing it onto the shoulder of southbound Interstate 29.

The driver fled the scene of the accident.

Trooper B. V. Cole with the Missouri State Highway Patrol responded to the scene and interviewed all witnesses. One eyewitness provided the state trooper with a Missouri license plate number of the alleged assailant.

Two troopers with the Missouri State Highway Patrol arrived at Rothwell's residence just as Rothwell was exiting his vehicle. Authorities say the Dodge pickup was visibly damaged.

Pieces of another vehicle still wedged to the truck were implications the vehicle was recently involved in an accident, court documents allege.

The vehicle Rothwell allegedly struck was declared to be a total loss. The victim's insurance carrier paid out nearly $9,000.

Rothwell was taken into custody and placed under arrest for driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident. Despite his admission to drinking alcohol on Nov. 30, 2011, Rothwell refused to perform a field sobriety test, including a breath and blood sample. “You already know I've been drinking,” Rothwell told authorities. He was later taken to the Saint Luke's Hospital where a nurse collected a blood sample.

By the time a blood sample could be collected, the results may not have accurately reflected Rothwell's blood alcohol content at the time of the alleged accident.

Rothwell claims he had been drinking, but did not leave his home. Authorities say his wife, who works at Margaritas, provided a statement implicating he was drinking at the restaurant hours preceding the accident. In a court of law, Rothwell's wife may choose whether or not to testify against her own husband, since the bond of marriage is protected.

Authorities say this is not the first time Rothwell has been caught allegedly driving under the influence, which accounts for the felony DWI charge. According to court papers, on Aug. 23, 1995 Rothwell was convicted of driving while intoxicated in Clay County and on March 12, 2003 Rothwell was arrested and later found guilty for driving with excessive blood alcohol content in Kansas City.

Rothwell also has a prior conviction for boating while intoxicated, according to court documents.