Traverse City Record-Eagle

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April 10, 2014

UPDATE: Judge's son injured in alcohol-related crash

TRAVERSE CITY — A local judge's son could face a drunken driving charge after a two-vehicle crash along U.S. 31 that left him in the hospital, hundreds without power and a Kingsley man behind bars.

Michael J. Stepka, 24, of Kalamazoo, remains in fair condition at Munson Medical Center. His father is 86th District Court Chief Judge Michael S. Stepka, who declined comment.

Eighty-Sixth District Court Administrator Carol Stocking confirmed the younger Stepka's involvement in an early Thursday two-vehicle, alcohol-related crash along U.S. 31 near Three Mile Road.

Grand Traverse County sheriff's deputies requested drunken driving charges against both drivers — a 24-year-old and a Kingsley man, 25 — but prosecutors hadn't yet authorized charges as of Thursday afternoon.

"We have received nothing on either party," Stocking said.

Sheriff's Capt. Chris Clark said it appears the Kingsley man's vehicle collided with the other driver's vehicle, a Mini Cooper, as they traveled down the road side-by-side.

That shot the Mini Cooper across the center line and into two wooden utility poles spaced about 200 feet apart. The crash toppled utility poles and cut power.

"The person driving sheared the first one off and ended up stopping when they hit the second pole," said Tom Olney, Traverse City Light & Power's operations manager.

Clark said the other vehicle spun in circles following the collision, but the driver managed to recover and flee the scene.

A witness tip led deputies to a nearby hotel where they arrested the Kingsley man, who'll likely face charges of operating while intoxicated causing serious injury, possession of marijuana, leaving the scene of a personal injury accident and being in possession of an open intoxicant.

Clark said deputies also requested an operating while intoxicated charge against the other driver. The Record-Eagle could not confirm that Stepka drove the vehicle and sheriff's officials didn't return calls for additional information.

Grand Traverse Prosecutor Bob Cooney declined comment through an employee.

Deputies closed a five-lane stretch of road for eight hours as investigators reconstructed the crash and utility workers cleared away the damaged poles.

Olney said about 900 customers along Three and Four Mile roads west to Eighth Street lost power. Crews restored power to all but 50 customers by 3:30 a.m., with the rest turned back on by late morning.

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