TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - The county prosecutor's office has filed charges against a Lafayette man who, investigators say, left the scene of a wreck that killed a 62-year-old man.
Prosecutors say 38-year-old Gregorio Felipe faces several charges for hitting a man and leaving the scene of the crash – charges intensified by the death of the bicyclist.
According to Tippecanoe County court documents, just before 7:30 p.m. May 14, county sheriff's deputies were sent to North Ninth Street south of the Davis Ferry Bridge on a report of a bicyclist who had been hit by a white van.
Deputies said they found an older white male with a head injury lying on the ground next to a bike, and spoke with witnesses, who recounted what they saw that led to the man on the ground.
Court documents say the witnesses told deputies they were driving southbound on Ninth Street behind a white box-type cargo van when they saw it swerve around a bicyclist who was also southbound on the shoulder of the road.
The witnesses said the bicyclist went to the left and then the van hit the bicyclist. Other witnesses reported the van had somehow side-swiped the bicyclist, who fell to the ground.
Witnesses further told deputies they saw the white van stop, and that a Latino man got out briefly to look at the bicyclist, but that he then got back into the van and left the scene. The witnesses said the van continued south on Ninth.
Deputies say they soon found a van matching the one described by witnesses parked behind a gas station on Ninth Street and Duncan Road, about a mile south of the crash scene.
Deputies say when they examined the van, the passenger side mirror was broken with a hair on the mirror and markings on the front passenger side quarter panel matched up with the left side of the bicycle handle bar.
After some digging, deputies discovered the van was registered to a construction company. The owner of the company said the van in question was being driven that day by an employee – Gregorio Felipe.
On May 15, deputies headed to the construction site in Battle Ground where Felipe was supposed to be working, but another employee said Felipe had not shown up for work that day and no one knew where he was.
The employee did tell deputies he saw Felipe come to and leave from work the day before, May 14 (the day of the wreck), and was driving the company's white van. The man told deputies he had last seen Felipe around 7 p.m. on May 14 when he left work.
Court documents say the bicyclist, 62-year-old Rodney Smith, was sent to a Lafayette hospital with severe head trauma and bleeding in the brain – his prognosis was poor. Three days later he was put on life support. Two days after that, hospital caretakers told deputies Smith was taken off life support when doctors found no brain activity. He was pronounced dead May 19.
A few days later on May 23, investigators spoke with another employee of the construction company who said he had spoken with Felipe after the wreck. The man told investigators Felipe had admitted to being the driver who struck a bicyclist. Felipe told the man that the bicyclist appeared to be going around a rock but did not look behind him. Felipe told the man he ran because he had no valid license and was "illegal."
And the next day, May 24, Felipe was arrested by authorities in Indianapolis. He is being held in the Tippecanoe County Jail.
Felipe faces three charges: leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, a Class C felony; leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury or death, a Class C misdemeanor; and operating a vehicle while suspended, a Class A misdemeanor.
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