NEWARK, N.J. - Over the last two decades, Randall Zandstra amassed a criminal record ranging from attempted murder to theft that spanned four states and included several attempts to flee justice.
He was also accused of having two wives simultaneously and stealing signed prints by Salvador Dali. And despite success as a professional poker player, he was banned from casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas for cheating.
On the run since July, Zandstra spent his last foreseeable moments of freedom behind the wheel of a car going 100 miles per hour on a dirt road in Colorado after a failed five-mile effort to outrace federal and local officers, authorities said yesterday.
Zandstra lost control of his car April 19 after attempting to force a car driven by a federal marshal off the road, according to Eileen Walsh, the New Jersey prosecutor who obtained a theft conviction against Zandstra last summer, despite his absence.
Zandstra's car rolled several times, throwing him 15 feet into the air, leaving him with a broken back, leg and arm, and other injuries, she said.
"He was a mess," Walsh said.
Recovery will bring little relief for Zandstra, now in a Denver hospital. Instead, he will face several criminal actions.
Federal charges are pending, including that he violated the terms of his release on a mail fraud sentence. Authorities in Colorado have accused him of turning two homes into marijuana farms. And in New Jersey, the Union County Prosecutor's Office will seek a 10-year term for Zandstra as a "persistent offender," about twice what he faced on the theft conviction.
Zandstra's record ranges from a minor theft in Minnesota to gunplay in Texas, Walsh said.
Despite his checkered past and dim future, the 44-year-old is admired by at least one person, the lawyer who defended him on the theft charge. He was accused of pocketing $16,500 from a client while working as a foreman for a New Jersey landscaping company in September 2000.
"I really liked the guy, and I don't say that about everybody," said the lawyer, Vincent J. Sanzone Jr. "It's too bad he can't focus himself, as they say, on more legitimate endeavors."
Zandstra's criminal life began years before his New Jersey theft trial.
In 1994, he was convicted in Dallas County, Texas, for activities on Valentine's Day 1988: aggravated assault, for holding a gun to the head of his first ex-wife, and attempted murder, for chasing and shooting at her boyfriend, Walsh said.
He had served two years of a 12-year term when the attempted-murder conviction was vacated because of a judge's error. Zandstra was released, but disappeared before the retrial, she said.
He surfaced in October 1999, when federal prosecutors in New York accused him of inducing 29 people to pay $276,000 for vending machines that didn't exist.
Zandstra was convicted of mail fraud in October 2000, but fled before being sentenced.
A SWAT team captured him in Loveland, Colo., in January 2004.
By the end of that year, a Colorado woman contended Zandstra had stolen seven Dali prints worth $20,000 and stashed them in a storage facility in Santa Fe, N.M.
Lisa Spain, of Loveland, said in court documents that Zandstra was her ex-husband, and had taken the prints from her home, which she fled in 2003 after a dispute. Married in January 2002, Spain said in court papers she later learned he used a false name, was married to another woman, and was a fugitive.
After his 2004 capture in Colorado, Zandstra pleaded guilty to the Texas attempted-murder charge in return for a sentence of time served. He was then sentenced on the mail fraud conviction in June 2005 and sent to federal prison.
Released in January 2006, he was living in Newton and on trial in Elizabeth, N.J., on the landscaping theft charge by July. He disappeared before closing arguments.
By October, U.S. marshals tracked Zandstra back to Loveland, a region that includes Rocky Mountain National Park. A December raid of the home found a marijuana crop inside but not Zandstra.
Last month, five marshals and officers from Colorado and Texas watched Zandstra leave a home garage in Greeley, Colo., about 15 miles from Loveland. Two marshals stood in the road with guns drawn, but Zandstra sped toward them, forcing them to leap to safety, Walsh said.
The chase ensued. Before the crash, officers said they saw Zandstra talking on a cell phone.
Back in Greeley, police said they found another marijuana farm, a Taser gun, and some literature that apparently had not been as helpful as hoped: books on evasive driving techniques.