Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 10, 2013

Still no suspect in second TC hit-and-run

BY MATT TROUTMAN mtroutman@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Police continue to search for a motorist who struck and critically injured a hospital patient who had walked away from Munson Medical Center, an incident that looms as the city’s second unsolved hit-and-run case in as many months.

Richard McClellan Jr., 44, of Kalkaska, was unresponsive when a pedestrian found him in the road near the intersection of Seventh and Cedar streets. His condition at Munson Medical Center was upgraded Friday to serious, but police have not been able to speak with him.

Traverse City Police Capt. Mike Ayling said detectives received about 10 tips on the case and inspected numerous white pickup trucks in the neighborhood — a witness saw a white four-door or extended cab GMC pickup truck, possibly a 2010 or 2011 model, speed away east toward Division Street after the incident.

“We’ve followed through on all of them, but so far nothing’s come of it,” Ayling said.

The incident is the second hit-and-run in Traverse City this summer that killed or seriously injured the victim. An unidentified motorist struck and killed Kelly Ann Boyce, 29, on July 5 as she pedaled her bicycle on Washington Street. Police had no immediate indication the two incidents are related.

McClellan was checked into Munson’s emergency department Wednesday before the incident. Hospital spokesman Dale Killingbeck said McClellan “walked out against medical advice” but declined to comment on whether he was officially released from care, citing medical privacy laws.

Ayling said he understood McClellan was “treated and released” from the hospital.

Police believe McClellan left the hospital and walked east on Seventh Street and was in the road when the driver struck him at about 11:45 p.m. Authorities have not determined whether McClellan was crossing, standing or walking in the street.

Ayling said police haven’t ruled out the possibility of a suicide attempt.

“It’s a thought, but we don’t know,” he said. “We’ll probably know more when we talk to him.”

One person saw the white pickup truck police believe may be linked to the incident, but several residents along both Seventh and Cedar streets heard the collision. Some, like Cedar Street resident Jay Whetsel, thought it was an innocuous event like a car hood slamming, but others, including his neighbor Christy Spidell, found the noise troubling.

She marked the time when she heard a “loud, unidentifiable noise” from the intersection, but initially dismissed it as a speeding car hitting a garbage can.

“It was one of those weird noises that’s not too suspicious, but unsettling,” she said.

Members of the public with information about the incident can call detectives at 231-995-5152 or call the anonymous tips line at 231-947-8477.

Several residents along Seventh Street said neighborhood traffic can be dangerous and expressed hope the city would do more to slow motorists. Bonnie Kopacki, who has lived on Seventh Street for 30 years, said she can’t back out of her driveway.

“I’ve seen people fly by at 35 or 55 (mph) easily,” said her daughter, Karra Goddard, who once was hit by a vehicle as she rode her bicycle in the neighborhood.

Homer Nye, president of the Kids Creek Commons Neighborhood Association, said a city traffic study conducted in August 2012 found 39,000 cars traveled Seventh Street in a week. Of those, 24 percent were traveling above the 30 mph speed limit.

“Are we concerned about speeding? Yes,” Nye said. “We realize we’re the access to Munson so we’re going to get traffic. It’s not the volume, it’s the speed.”

Nye said proposals of speed bumps or crosswalks are not possible on Seventh Street because the road is an ambulance route. He said the city informed the association that a proposed stop sign for the Seventh and Cedar street intersection does not fit Traverse City’s master plan.

“We’re in a bit of a quandary. We don’t know what to do,” he said.