Driver stopped for speeding kills self rather than face jail

VENETA, Ore. - A man who shot himself to death in his Corvette after being pulled over by a state trooper for doing 75 in a 55 mph zone had vowed he "would not go back to jail," a sheriff's office investigation found.

David Eugene Vale, 53, of Portland died of self-inflicted gunshot wound Sunday, the Lane County Sheriff's Office said.

Here's what investigators say happened:

An Oregon State Police trooper stopped Vale's 1987 Chevy Corvette for speeding on Highway 126 eastbound, just west of Veneta.

Vale stopped long enough for his passenger to get out of the car, then drove off.

The trooper expected a high-speed chase. Instead, after a mile, Valle pulled the Corvette onto the shoulder of the road.

As the trooper got out of his car, he heard a gunshot and saw the Corvette start moving. After going less than half a football field, the car went into a ditch and hit a tree.

When the trooper got to the car, he could see Vale had suffered what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The trooper called for medical help and grabbed the first aid kit from his patrol car, but it was too late.

Inside the car, investigators found a .357 handgun with one spent round. They also found meth, heroin and drug paraphernalia.

Vale had a criminal record for guns and drugs in Oregon dating back to 1989, as well as arrests in California and Arizona dating back two decades, the sheriff's office said.

Investigators learned Vale been released on Bail from an arrest in Multnomah County and had been considering flight to Mexico. He had told others that if he ever got stopped again he "would not go back to jail."

The passenger was a hitchhiker who Vale had picked up in Florence. Deputies interviewed him as part of their investigation.