KENTWOOD, Mich. (AP) — An 82-year-old driver who struck and killed a pedestrian in western Michigan will not face charges for leaving the scene after insisting that he believed he had hit a deer, a prosecutor said.
The man called 911 to report a collision and even returned to a Kentwood neighborhood to retrieve a dead deer and put it in the trunk of his Lincoln MKZ.
“It’s kind of too weird to be true almost, but apparently it is true,” Kent County prosecutor Chris Becker told WOOD-TV.
“He’s an elderly gentleman, over 80 years old, so there’s nothing in his record to make us think he’s some sort of criminal mastermind to think that quickly and react as he did,” Becker said.
The incident occurred in a Grand Rapids suburb in September 2020. Page Stokes, 32, was struck at night while crossing a street to get to a store. Her body, however, wasn’t discovered until the next morning in a front yard.
Kentwood police learned that the driver had called 911.
“I hit a deer. (It) jumped in front of my car. … I’ll go back there and then move him out of the road … because I left him there, you know,” the man said, according to the call obtained by WOOD.
Police found the car at a repair shop — with a deer in the trunk. Investigators, however, said damage to the car didn’t seem to match up with the dead deer. Stokes’ DNA was found on the vehicle.
“We have to show he left the scene knowing, or at least having a pretty good idea, that he hit a person, not a deer,” Becker said. “Unfortunately, all the evidence shows is that he really truly believed he’d hit a deer.”
The man and his wife declined to speak to the TV station.
Stokes’ family is considering a civil lawsuit against the driver.
“Page was a loving daughter,” her mother, Pam Strickland, said. “She loved life. She loved her children. She loved her nieces and nephews. There was nothing she wouldn’t do.”