A Michigan jury returned a guilty verdict on Tuesday against the driver who two years ago plowed into a group of bicyclists — killing five and seriously injuring four.
Charles Pickett Jr., 52, of Battle Creek was found guilty of five counts of second-degree murder, five counts of operating while intoxicated causing death, and four counts of operating while intoxicated causing serious injury.
Prosecutors argued that Pickett never should have gotten behind the wheel of his pickup after taking a handful of pills, including pain killers, following the funeral of his cousin.
Testimony revealed that Pickett’s driving was the subject of several 911 calls after he tailgated cars, jumped curbs, passed on the right, and nearly got into a head-on collision. He was going about 60 mph when he ran into members of Kalamazoo’s Chain Gang bicycle club.
Pickett was found hiding in some vegetation near the crash site.
The dead ranged in age from their 40s to their 70s. They were Debra Ann Bradley, 53, of Augusta; Melissa Ann Fevig Hughes, 42, of Kalamazoo; Fred Anton ‘Tony’ Nelson, 73, of Kalamazoo; Lorenz John ‘Larry’ Paulik, 74, of Kalamazoo and Suzanne Joan Sippel, 56, of Augusta.
The injured were Jennifer Johnson of Kalamazoo; Sheila Jeske of Richland; Paul Runnels of Richland and Paul Gobble of Richland. Although they testified about how the crash changed their lives, they had no recollection about being struck. Three of those survivors led a bicycle safety awareness ride after the verdict.
According to Michigan Live website:
Jennifer Johnson, who led the ride that day, said she remembers seeing the sign for Markin Glen Park. Her next memory was waking up, seeing her right arm tangled in a fence and seeing burrs in her clothing. She said she started to scan her body.
“I struggled when I couldn’t find my right leg,” Johnson testified. “I found it very acutely over my right shoulder.”
Another had no memories for nearly 2 weeks after the collision, when he finally came to.
Pickett may spend the rest of his life in prison. He will be sentenced in Kalamazoo County on June 11.
Pickett’s attorney argued that his client would not have known that his taking the pills would have resulted in the five deaths. The prosecutor said Pickett had ample opportunities to pull off the road until he sobered up.