TRAVERSE CITY — The community is reeling from another hit-and-run incident after an unknown motorist struck and critically injured a hospital patient who'd walked away from Munson Medical Center.
Richard McClellan, 44, of Kalkaska, was found Wednesday just before midnight crumpled near the intersection of Seventh and Cedar streets. City police don't believe the incident is connected to the hit-and-run death of Kelly Ann Boyce on July 5, despite similarities between the two as-yet-unsolved cases.
"At this point we have no evidence or reason to link the two accidents together," said Traverse City Police Capt. Mike Ayling.
Several neighborhood residents heard a collision and car accelerating from the scene. Ayling said one witness heard the impact and saw a white four-door or extended cab GMC pickup truck, possibly a 2010 or 2011 model, speed away toward Division Street.
Police want to speak with the driver, even if the person didn't strike McClellan.
Seventh Street resident Rob Stark described hearing a "real eerie noise, a real eerie thud" from the street at about 11:45 p.m.
"When you're out in the woods, hear a bear growl and the hair on the back of your neck stands up — it was the same kind of sound," Stark said. "I didn't want to go outside."
His neighbor Tim Nelson heard the same noise, as well as the sound of a vehicle accelerating, but he initially didn't consider it suspicious. That changed a few minutes later when he heard a man call 911 from the street. He went outside and saw McClellan face down on the pavement.
"He had a laceration on the back of his head," he said. "He had a hospital bracelet on ... The weirdest thing was he was breathing like he was asleep."
McClellan remains in critical condition on a ventilator in Munson Medical Center. Spokesman Dale Killingbeck said McClellan was checked in and treated in the Munson emergency department before the incident, but walked out of the hospital "without the medical advice to leave."
"My understanding is the patient left of his own accord," he said.
Ayling said it appears McClellan walked east from the hospital in the road about 10 feet from the curb. McClellan was wearing red hospital footies and carrying his shoes, which he placed in the road some time before the accident.
"He was only a block from there and was apparently right in the middle of the roadway when he was struck," Ayling said. "It does not appear as though he was (lying) down or had fallen down."
Police believe the vehicle struck McClellan from behind and knocked him to a spot about five feet from the curb. Ayling said police searched for video footage from Munson and locations down Division Street, but so far have had no success.
Stark said some neighborhood residents who were gathered outside the police barricade speculated it may have been connected with the Boyce hit-and-run. Police in that investigation haven't discounted a connection with two other incidents from 2010 and 2011 in which female bicyclists reported a dark pickup truck or SUV similar to the vehicle sought in the Boyce case deliberately struck them.
Ayling said no evidence suggests a link between the McClellan hit-and-run and Boyce's slaying. He said McClellan appears to have been in the roadway and the driver may not have been at-fault.
"So the driver may have done nothing wrong at all, other than decided not to stop," he said.
Jane Keller lives near the intersection of Seventh and Cedar streets and said one of her neighbors and Boyce were friends. She said she was fed up with unsolved hit-and-run incidents in Traverse City.
"I don't understand where people's morality is going," she said. "Why don't people fess up?"
Members of the public with information are asked to contact the Traverse City Police Department at 231-995-5152 or the anonymous tip line at 231-947-TIPS (8477).