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Ex-deputy’s trial set for mid-August

Ambler to pay for his own psych, substance abuse evaluation

Lowell Maxwell "Max" Ambler
Lowell Maxwell "Max" Ambler

DIXON – As his trial inches closer, a former LaSalle County deputy accused of kidnapping a 14-year-old girl nearly 2 years ago then leading officers on a 4-day, multicounty manhunt has got a judge’s OK to get a mental fitness and substance abuse evaluation, at his own expense.

At a pretrial hearing June 4, two weeks were set aside, from Aug. 12 to 26, for the trial of Lowell “Max” Ambler, 48, of Mendota, who was indicted on Oct. 20, 2017, in Lee County Court on two counts of home invasion, aggravated kidnapping, two counts of kidnapping, criminal trespass to a residence and unlawful restraint.

The first three counts carry 6 to 30 years in prison; kidnapping carries 2 to 7 years, and the rest 1 to 3 years.

Also on June 4, Judge Charles Beckman granted defense attorney Edward D. Johnson III’s request for a psychological and substance abuse evaluation at Sinnissippi Centers in Dixon.

Ambler’s final pretrial hearing is July 25. Beckman said June 4 that he wants to see the trial proceed as scheduled, despite the evaluation.

Ambler, in Lee County Jail on $1 million bond, is accused of entering a Compton home on Aug. 26, 2017, where his ex-girlfriend’s then-14-year-old daughter was babysitting.

According to investigators and court records:

While “wearing a hood, robe or mask,” Ambler duct-taped her hands and head and held her against her will “with the intent to secretly confine” her.

He grabbed the girl, pushed her head into a couch then dragged her through the house, pushing her down the outside steps. He picked her up, choked her from behind, duct-taped her hands behind her back and dragged her to a shed.

As she pleaded for him not to kill her, he duct-taped her around her head and mouth. She couldn’t breathe and passed out, and he tossed her into a bean field, still taped up.

A car arrived, Ambler took off, the girl broke free and officers were called.

He was arrested that Sept. 15, and posted $25,000 bail 5 days later, but while out on bond, Ambler violated the terms of his release by sending text and Snapchat messages to girl’s mother, who had an order of protection against him, investigators said.

Arrest warrants were issued in Lee and LaSalle counties, then authorities were notified Oct. 3 that Ambler had stolen a corn-hauling semitrailer and might be headed to Plainfield, where the girl and her mother were staying. He was believed to be armed with a .45-caliber handgun and considered dangerous, police said.

Plainfield police found the stolen semitrailer, and later, using a handgun, Ambler carjacked a vehicle in Plainfield; it was found in woods south of his hometown of Earlville, where he was arrested Oct. 6 after a standoff.

As a result, Ambler also was indicted Oct. 25 in Will County on four felonies: armed robbery, which carries 6 to 30 years, aggravated robbery and robbery of a victim who is older than 60 or disabled, each of which carries 4 to 15 years, and unlawful possession of a stolen vehicle, which carries 3 to 7 years.

Johnson, a criminal defense attorney in Chicago, represents him in both cases. No trial is set in Will County, where his next pretrial hearing is July 11.

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