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Suspect identified, facing charges in Jasper County fatal hit-and-run

Deputies said 43-year-old Joseph Bland of Terre Haute was the alleged driver of the semi that killed Melissa Deno on Oct. 10.

Posted: Nov 20, 2018 6:17 PM

RENSSELAER, Ind. (WLFI) -- A suspect has been identified in connection to a fatal hit-and-run in Jasper County in October, Sheriff Terry Risner confirmed.

Deputies said 43-year-old Joseph Bland of Terre Haute was the alleged driver of the semi that killed Melissa Deno on Oct. 10. The semi was found in East St. Louis, Illinois just a few days after the crash. Chief Deputy Pat Williamson said a report has now been filed with the Jasper County Prosecutor's office. Bland is not in custody, according to Williamson. 

Williamson said trucking company, based out of Terre Haute, contacted the sheriff's office and identified Bland. He was passing through Rensselaer on Oct. 10 for a pick up or drop off. 

As we reported in October, a statewide search was underway for a semi that drove off after running over a car and killing a woman. The woman was identified as 40-year-old Melissa Deno of Rensselaer.

On Oct. 10, police received a report of a crash between a car and a semi at the intersection of U.S. 231 and State Road 16. Within minutes, a second call was received that the semi had fled the scene westbound on State Road 16. It was also reported the driver of the car was trapped within the vehicle after it has gone under the semi.

When fire rescue and law enforcement arrived, they determined a white box trailer had failed to stop at the intersection and crashed into a car driven by Deno. The vehicle had gone under the semi, shearing off the roof of Deno's vehicle.

According to officials, Deno suffered serious injuries and was pronounced dead by medical personnel.

Tuesday, INDOT changed the intersection to a 4-way stop after a recommendation from the Sheriff's office. Sheriff Risner said the intersection has seen many fatal crashes due to careless drivers.

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