Man pleads not guilty to Palm Desert truck theft

INDIO, Calif. - A man accused of stealing a pickup truck and crashing it through the front entrance of a Palm Desert gated community while trying to evade sheriff's deputies pleaded not guilty Friday to evading arrest, vehicle theft and vandalism charges.

Dominic Michael Battiato, 33, was charged Tuesday in connection with the alleged Aug. 19 pursuit.

Sheriff's deputies responded at 1:16 a.m. that day to a call of a man and woman fighting inside a white pickup truck outside the Pronto Food Mart in Palm Desert, according to a declaration in support of an arrest warrant. The woman involved was heard screaming ``Let me go!'', the declaration states.

A truck matching the description given to deputies was later spotted in the parking lot of a nearby Wendy's, with Battiato behind the wheel. A deputy pulled Battiato over and while speaking with him, noticed "what appeared to be dried blood on the center console'' and that ``there was no key 
in the ignition and the ignition had been punched,'' the declaration states.

Battiato allegedly sped away from the deputy north on Washington Street, then veered into the Sun City Palm Desert community on Del Webb Boulevard by crashing through the community's steel gates, according to the declaration. The condition of the gates prevented deputies from following 
Battiato into the community, according to the declaration.

The driver was able to evade capture, with the truck later found on El Duna Court, a dead-end street just west of Sun City Palm Desert. Deputies say a cell phone found inside the truck connected Battiato to the chase.

He ended up in custody just over a week later after he and 27-year-old Paige Groves allegedly robbed the Home Depot and assaulted a store employee on Aug. 30.

Read more about their arrest.

Battiato and Groves both remain in custody at the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.

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