GRATTAN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WZZM) - A man who fled after striking a horseback rider in Kent County's Grattan Township last month, breaking the horse's leg and knocking off its rider, was sentenced today to 30 days in jail.
Michael John Dean, 36, of Belmont, was also ordered to pay $3,300 in restitution for the value of the five-year-old Colt and the cost to bury it.
When Kent County Sheriff's deputies caught up with Dean days after the June 3 accident, he said damage to his Jeep was caused by a deer strike on Cannonsburg Road NE. He later admitted to putting deer hair on the impact site to make it look as though he struck a deer rather than a horse.
Three people were horseback riding along a gravel stretch of Byrne Avenue NE at Five Mile Road when Dean's 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee lost control, brushed one of the riders and struck the horse ridden by Lynn Marie Holck.
Holck suffered bumps, bruises and sore ribs. The horse had to be put down due to a broken leg caused by the impact.
She told 63rd District Court Judge Steven Servaas the vehicle brushed against one rider and struck the rear of her horse, tossing her to the gravel road.
"I understand accidents happen, but for someone to leave the scene . . .'' she told the judge. "And for all he knew, we could have been dead. He didn't just drive off, he sped off at a high rate of speed. Gravel was flying.''
Tracy Lee Evans, who was behind the other riders, said Dean nicked her horse, but she was able to hold on. Her horse suffered bruises from the impact.
"To take off and to go to the extremes of trying to cover it up that he did,'' Evans said. "He could have killed us. It was horrific and that's an understatement.''
It took several minutes for help to arrive because none of the riders had cell phones with them.
After the accident, sheriff's deputies caught up with Dean, who said damage to his vehicle occurred when he struck a deer on Cannonsburg Road NE about the same time the horse was struck. Vehicle parts left at the scene of the accident matched perfectly with Dean's vehicle, court records show.
After being confronted with the evidence, Dean admitted he made up the story about striking a deer. He said he came upon a dead deer on Cannonsburg Road and placed deer hair on the damaged portion of his jeep to avoid being caught.
When Dean told the judge he turned himself in a day or two after the accident, a member of the audience stood up and confronted Dean, saying he had to be tracked down. The point wasn't lost on Servaas.
"It doesn't sound like you turned yourself in,'' Servaas told Dean. "There's nothing in the police report about you turning yourself in. They apparently tracked you down.''
Dean said he was not drinking prior to the accident but admitted to having a prior drunken driving conviction. When pressed by Servaas about other criminal cases, Dean responded: "There might be a few others.''
Servaas then read off a list of Dean's prior arrests and convictions. They include two incidents of domestic abuse, malicious destruction of property, possession of marijuana and a pending case of maintaining a drug house in Rockford.
Servaas sentenced Dean to one year in the Kent County Jail, but suspended all but 30 days of that sentence. Dean was ordered to show up at the jail Friday evening to begin his sentence. He was also placed on two years' probation, ordered to pay $1,500 in fines and court costs and $3,300 in restitution.
Prior to sentencing, Dean apologized for his actions.
"I am very sorry for what I've done,'' he told the court. "I wish I could take it all back. I don't know what made me do it other than I'm on probation.''