The car crash that resulted in the deaths of five cyclists earlier last month was a tragedy that swept through the media like wildfire. Many people speculated about about what had gone wrong behind the wheel when 50-year-old Charles Pickett Jr. drove his truck off the road and collided with a group of bike riders in Kalamazoo Township, killing five and injuring four.
It took police several days to name the suspect in the case, and then when the charges against Pickett were first made public, they included no mention of a DUI. Pickett was initially charged with five counts of second-degree murder, and four felony counts of reckless driving causing serious impairment, but nothing was said about whether or not Pickett was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
That mystery appears to have been cleared up recently as the prosecutor’s office brought additional charges in the form of five counts of Operating while intoxicated (OWI) causing death, and four counts of Operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing serious injury. Under Michigan law, these are a serious felony charges that could result in many years behind bars in the event of a conviction.
According to court records, Kalamazoo County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Getting told the judge that Pickett was under the influence of a controlled substance at the time of the crash. However, he did not provide any more details about that that substance was and whether or not it was a legal prescription medication or an illegal drug.
Getting also told the Kalamazoo District Court that the new charges would be added to the five second degree murder charges but would replace the prior reckless driving charges. Pickett now faces a total of 14 felony charges, five of which are punishable by up to life in prison under Michigan law.
Pickett has been ordered by the court, at the request of his attorney, to undergo a competency exam. For this reason, the hearing that was scheduled for later this month has been postponed, pending the results of the examination. The Michigan Center for Forensic Psychiatry has been given 60 days to complete their evaluation of Pickett.
Pickett’s next court date has been scheduled for August 31st, at which time an internal review will be conducted to ensure that the competency evaluation has begun. Once the results of the evaluation are available, Getting says that a preliminary hearing may be scheduled within five days dependent of course on the results of the competency examination.