An Ellsworth man cried several times as he listened to testimony Wednesday during his preliminary hearing on charges he struck and killed a woman walking along Route 917 in Ellsworth last month and fled the scene.
Robert Lee Myers Jr., 42, of A-15 Scott Drive, is accused of hitting Brittany Marie Chapman, 29, of Scenery Hill, Aug. 15 as she walked home from a local tavern. Chapman died at the scene moments after the crash. Washington County Coroner Tim Warco testified she died of head injuries and ruled her death vehicular homicide.
Daniel Fordyce, of 110 S. Main St. (Route 917), said he heard the squeal of tires before the crash.
“I had heard cars impact before, but this sound was worse than any other I had heard,” Fordyce said during the hearing in Central Court before District Judge Ethan Ward. “I could see a dark pickup truck going south.”
Fordyce could see something lying next to a utility pole. When he checked, he saw a woman who was later identified as Chapman. He returned to the house, got his cellphone and called 911.
Just before the crash was reported, Myers almost struck Jennifer Mock’s vehicle as she was driving on Main Street from Bentleyville to Ellsworth. She testified a gray Dodge Ram pickup was behind her at the light on Main and Washington Street. The truck driver did not proceed when the light turned green but then sped up behind Mock’s vehicle. She swerved into a nearby parking lot to avoid getting hit.
Mock then followed the truck, getting a license number she gave to Bentleyville police Chief Richard Brown, along with a description of the truck. Brown had just run the license plate, coming back to Misty Griffin, A-15 Scott Drive, Ellsworth, when he received a call to assist state police at a crash on Route 917.
Trooper George Carlberg, who filed the charges against Myers, said he was given the license number at the scene by Brown. Carlberg said troopers went to the address and found the truck, a dark gray 2003 Dodge Ram.
Cpl. John Weaver, an accident reconstruction specialist, said Myers appeared to be intoxicated. When he came out of the house, he fell into a trooper and both fell to the ground.
“It didn’t seem to register to him who we were,” Weaver said. “He said he didn’t know why we were there. He said he had been sleeping and didn’t hit any woman.”
Weaver said the damage to the truck was consistent both to the debris at the crash site and to damage from a pedestrian crash. Hair was found on the hood of the truck was of the same color and length as the victim.
Myers appears to have been was driving north in the southbound lane of Route 917 when he went off the road, hitting Chapman, Weaver said.
Griffin, who also has a Charleroi address, testified Myers did not have permission to drive the truck.
Carlberg said blood was drawn at Washington Hospital to determine Myers’ intoxication level, but those test results had not yet been returned.
Chapman’s boyfriend, Anthony J. Stetz, 53, of VanVoorhis, came to the crash scene and caused a disturbance. Brown took him to the state police barracks. Stetz was arrested on charges including aggravated assault after he allegedly pushed a trooper at the barracks. Stetz, who is free on $25,000 bond, is awaiting an Oct. 8 preliminary hearing before District Judge Robert Redlinger. He and Myers were in a holding cell at the same time waiting for their respective arraignments.
Myers was ordered to stand trial on charges of homicide by vehicle and homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence of alcohol, DUI, leaving the scene, aggravated assault by vehicle, reckless endangerment and summary violations. Ward set bond at $25,000 for Myers, who was held in Washington County jail without bond since his arraignment the day after the crash.