Was Driver Who Killed Cyclists in Kalamazoo Drunk?

Just over a week ago, a driver in a pickup truck struck a group of bicyclists who were on a casual ride on a Tuesday evening in Cooper Township north of Kalamazoo, Michigan. As details of the tragic incident emerge, one piece of information is stark in its absence – the driver’s intoxication level at the time of the crash. There has been much speculation in the media about whether or not the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. But authorities have been very tight-lipped about this case.


According to police records, officers received several 911 calls about a driver who was swerving and veering in their lane mere minutes before the crash. They were in the process of attempting to locate the pickup truck when the cyclists were hit. In total, five people were killed and four were seriously injured. Police say that after the crash, the driver fled on foot and was apprehended nearby.


It was several days before authorities named the driver of the truck. Charles Pickett Jr. , a 50-year-old resident of Battle Creek in Calhoun County, MI, is now being charged with five counts of second-degree murder, and four felony counts of reckless driving causing serious impairment. If he is convicted on all nine counts, Pickett is looking at the possibility of life in prison. The fact that none of his charges include any reference to drunk driving indicates that so far, the prosecutor doesn’t see alcohol as a factor in this case.


Pickett’s arraignment was initially delayed for medical reasons, although what that entails was never shared with the public. At his arraignment which finally took place last Friday afternoon, Kalamazoo County District Judge Richard Santoni said that Pickett was a flight risk. This was  allegedly because of his recent residency in Tennessee. This coupled with the severity of the charges, Judge Santoni chose to deny bail.


Pickett told the judge that he is unemployed and takes care of his father but that he would speak to his parents about the possibility of hiring an attorney to handle his case. Until then, however, Judge Santoni assigned him an attorney. The attorneys will be meeting for a pre-exam conference on June 22nd, and Pickett’s next court appearance is scheduled for June 29th, when his preliminary hearing takes place. Hopefully Pickett or his family will hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to assist him.


The people injured and killed in the crash were part of a bicycle group entitled “The Chain Gang”. Those identified as deceased are 53-year-old Debra A. Bradley, 42-year-old Melissa A. Fevig-Hughes, and 56-year-old Suzanne J. Sippel, all of Augusta, along with 73-year-old Fred Anton (Tony) Nelson, and 74-year-old Lorenz J. (Larry) Paulik, of Kalamazoo. The injured cyclists are 47-year-old Paul D. Gobble, 53-year-old Sheila D. Jeske, and Paul L. Runnels, 65, all of Richland, Michigan along with 40-year-old Jennifer L. Johnson of Kalamazoo.


After decades of helping clients all over Michigan with their criminal defense, the Kronzek Firm has extensive experience with these kind of felony cases. Our office in Farmington Hills, Oakland County as well as our main office in Lansing have attorneys available all over the lower peninsula of Michigan. We can be reached 24/ 7 at 1 866-766-5245.


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