Chesterton Tribune

Charges filed in crash which left Chesterton motorcyclist dead

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The driver of a pickup truck which a Chesterton motorcyclist fatally rear ended on U.S. Highway 30 in Valparaiso on Tuesday has been formally charged with leaving the scene and operating while intoxicated.

Gene H. Spratley, 58, of 69E 100S in Morgan Township, was charged on Thursday with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, a Class D felony punishable by a term of six months to three years; OWI in a manner that endangers a person, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a term of up to a year; and OWI, a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a term of up to two months.

According to the probable cause affidavit filed by Det. Daniel Koepke of the Valparaiso Police Department, at 9:10 p.m. officers were dispatched to the intersection of U.S. 30 and Sager Road, where motorcyclist Derek Dodd, 23, of Chesterton, was seen lying in the roadway several feet from his bike. Dodd “appeared to have massive injuries and was unresponsive,” Koepke stated, and was subsequently pronounced dead at the scene.

Witnesses advised investigators that they heard or observed Dodd “accelerating very quickly” while eastbound on U.S. 30, then “slam into the rear of the pickup” as its driver was slowing to turn right onto southbound Sager Road, Koepke stated. One of the witnesses also advised that she did see the pickup’s brake lights activate “prior to impact by the motorcycle.”

Two other witnesses advised that they saw the driver of the pickup--later identified as Spratley--exit the truck after the crash and “appear to check his truck, then get back into the truck and drive south on Sager Road,” Koepke stated.

Cpl. Mike Grennes of the VPD, now looking for a pickup with heavy rear end damage and no operating taillights, proceeded south on Sager Road and, while nearing Division Road, spotted a truck which matched the description of the suspect vehicle, Koepke stated. Grennes executed a traffic stop and made contact with its driver, Spratley, who showed signs of intoxication, failed three field sobriety tests, and registered a blood alcohol content of .14 percent on a portable breath test but refused to submit to a certified chemical test, Koepke stated.

A warrant for a blood draw was obtained and executed at Porter Valparaiso Hospital Campus and two samples taken, Koepke stated.

Spratley admitted having had five beers at a bar, then leaving the bar at 9 p.m. and just before turning right from eastbound U.S. 30 onto southbound Sager Road being rear ended, Koepke stated. Spratley completed his turn, exited the pickup, “saw vehicles and debris in the roadway,” and then left the scene.

“He also said he knew the law required him to stop but that he did not and drove away to go home,” Koepke stated. “He went on to say he panicked because he had consumed five beers . . . before driving.”


Posted 8/7/2009