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Small paint chips lead police to suspected fatal hit and run driver

Prosecutors in Muskegon County say the suspect in fatal hit-and-run has five prior drinking-and-driving related convictions.

MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — The big break leading to the arrest of a Fruitport man now charged in the hit-and-run death of a woman in Norton Shores on Nov. 24 were small pieces of the suspects' car detectives located along Seaway Drive.

"And we're not talking about big pieces," said Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson Friday following the arraignment of 63-year-old Gregory Asquith.

Hilson authorized three felony charges against Asquith, whom he says has five prior drunk driving convictions.

The charges include driving with a revoked license causing death, failure to stop at the scene of a fatal accident, and tampering with evidence.

Investigators determined Asquith was at two Muskegon-area bars in the hours leading up to the crash that killed 53-year-old Francis Houck of Muskegon Heights.

Credit: Starlieghsha Houck

North Shores found Houck dead near the intersection of Seaway Drive and Norton Avenue around 12:45 a.m.

"I firmly believe that he was intoxicated at the time, I can't prove that, but I'd like to be able to at least try and show that so we're still working on that aspect of the case," Hilson said.

Detectives used the recovered broken car parts and paint chips to determine the evidence belonged to an all-wheel-drive Suzuki.

State vehicle records were used to locate the same make and model vehicles registered to drivers in the Muskegon area.

Asquith did not have a valid drivers license at the time of the crash. He's scheduled to be back in Muskegon County District Court for a preliminary examination on Dec. 30. 

During the arraignment Friday morning, Matt Roberts' chief trial attorney for the Muskegon County Prosecutor's Office asked the judge to consider Asquith a flight risk. Roberts said in recent days Asquith had given a family member a large amount of cash, was staying at a hotel near the Detroit Metro Airport, and asked a co-worker to retrieve his passport from his home.

Roberts said detectives found a substantial amount of cash left behind by Asquith in the hotel room where he'd stayed.

RELATED: Police identify Muskegon Heights woman killed in Norton Shores hit and run crash

RELATED: Human tissue found on suspect's car in fatal hit and run: Court documents

Ultimately Roberts told Muskegon County District Court Judge Raymond Kostrzwa Asquith was located and arrested at a Muskegon hospital while being treated for a "suicide attempt."

Houck's daughter Starlieghsha Houck spoke following the arraignment.  

"Even though she's not got nothing," Starlieghsha said. "She'd do everything for everybody, you didn't even have to know her."

Because Seaway Drive is a busy road she worried the driver wouldn't be caught. "[It] could have been somebody coming in or out of town," she said. 

Asquith appeared in the courtroom by video feed from the Muskegon County Jail. The judged ordered he be held on a $200,000 cash bond and if it's posted Asquith must surrender his passport and remain in Michigan.

"It don't even look like he got any remorse in his face or nothing," Starlieghsha Houck said. "It's unfair to her kids and her grandkids." 

"You just left her there, she could have had help," she said.

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