GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - A Wyoming plow truck driver was sentenced Thursday to between 5 and 15 years in prison for striking a pedestrian with his truck and fleeing the scene of the deadly accident.
“A part of me died that day,’’ Austin Joseph Hill, 21, said of the Jan. 10 accident on 52nd Street SW.
Hill earlier pleaded no contest to failure to stop at the scene of an accident when at fault, resulting in death, a 15-year felony. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dismissed a habitual offender charge that could have increased his time behind bars.
“This was a horrible tragedy for two families,’’ defense attorney Craig Haehnel said.
The accident occurred about 8:45 a.m. on Jan. 10. Wyoming Police eventually arrested Hill at an apartment complex about 1-½ miles from the crash site based on tips phoned in by the public.
Investigators say blood found on the plow was traced back to the victim, 26-year-old Chelsea Crawford.
Police say Hill was heading west on 52nd Street SW in a red, 2002 Dodge Ram pickup equipped with a V-plow when he struck Crawford, who was walking along the road. The truck is registered to a Byron Center landscape company. Crawford died at the scene.
Hill “knew or had reason to know he was involved in an accident, did fail to immediately stop and remain at the scene of the crash resulting in a pedestrian dying,’’ investigators wrote in a probable cause affidavit.
A homeowner near 52nd Street and Byron Center Avenue SW provided investigators with surveillance video showing a red pick-up similar to the vehicle described by police. That led officers to Ramblewood Apartments, where Hill was arrested.
Hill called his actions after the crash "cruel and disrespectful.''
“What happened was a complete accident,'' he told the court. "If I could, I’d rather it be my life than hers.''
Crawford’s mother, Christina Fender, addressed Hill prior to sentencing.
“One of the things I loved about Chelsea was her caring heart,'' Fender said. "She would want Austin Hill to know that he is forgiven. I too forgive Austin Hill. He was careless, but not with malice in his heart.’’
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