PRESTON — A 25-year-old man has been on life support since a hit-and-run accident in Franklin County on Oct. 16.
Christopher James Ward, of Smithfield, Utah, has been charged with felonies for leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in serious injuries and for destroying evidence, court documents show.
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According to an affidavit, Idaho State Police were called to the scene of a hit and run at 4800 South in Franklin County around 9:30 p.m. Police were informed that a man on a red Schwinn bicycle had been hit by a vehicle and that the vehicle had left the area.
According to police reports, a vehicle went off the road before hitting the cyclist.
“Evidence at the scene indicated that (the victim) was struck, thrown from his bicycle, and came to rest in a cornfield on the north side of the road,” reports said.
Soldiers collected parts of a vehicle they believed to be involved in the incident and determined the vehicle to be a 2015-2018 Volkswagen Jetta. ISP asked the public for assistance in finding a car that fits the description and has front end damage.
ISP received a tip that a gray 2017 Jetta had been left at a collision repair center in Smithfield, Utah.
Troopers joined Smithfield Police Department officers at the repair center where they found the Jetta. In reports, responding officers noted that the Jetta suffered “severe damage” to the driver’s side, a shattered windshield and “serious” damage to the front end. Officers also noticed red paint transfer at the apparent impact zone, which matched the color of the bike involved in the hit-and-run.
Officers determined the Jetta was registered to Ward and obtained a seizure warrant, taking the car for evidence.
The repair center told officers that on the evening of October 16 — sometime between 4:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. — the Jetta was left there with a deer.
Detectives returned to the scene of the accident and found that the Jetta would have left the scene of the accident via US Highway 91.
About six miles from the collision site, officers found a bicycle wheel and strut, which they determined were involved in the collision. Police reports show the bicycle wheel had been pulled under a car before falling out and being left near the road.
Officers obtained a search warrant to gather evidence from the Jetta seized in Utah.
Searching the car, officers found what they believed to be human soft tissue, blood and hair on the driver’s door and hair on the front driver’s side, and hair on the windshield. Officers also found empty liquor bottles in the car.
An officer spoke to Ward on the phone. He told the officer he hit a deer on October 15. When asked where the deer strike took place, Ward said it happened in Utah but wasn’t sure where exactly.
The officer noted in reports that it was “clear” Ward was not being honest during their discussion.
Other officers spoke to witnesses who said Ward had been drinking while playing golf in the early morning of October 16. A witness told officers they saw Ward driving the Jetta on Oct. 15 and stated that it was in “like new condition.” A witness also told officers that Ward would not let anyone drive his car.
Officers obtained a search warrant to draw blood from the victim. Speaking to medical staff at the Utah hospital where the victim was treated, officials learned the victim was on a ventilator and had been on life support since the collision. Staff told officers the victim suffered “severe injuries and fractures to the extremities,” had “very minor” reflex responses, and was suffering from “severe bleeding (in) the brain.”
Detectives spoke to a business near the intersection of 4800 South and Highway 91 and obtained surveillance footage from Oct. 16.
In the footage, just before 4:45 p.m., officers saw a car matching Ward’s Jetta traveling “at high speed” on eastbound 4800 South. Damage was visible on the front driver’s side and undercarriage of the vehicle.
Officials and the Franklin County Attorney’s Office deemed the available evidence sufficient to issue a warrant for Ward’s arrest.
He was arrested by Smithfield police on October 26 and taken to Cache County Jail.
Although Ward has been charged with these crimes, that doesn’t necessarily mean he committed them. Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
If found guilty, Ward faces up to 15 years in prison.
A preliminary hearing was waived and Ward was transferred to the district court on both charges. He was arraigned by District Judge Mitchell Brown on November 10.