Howard City man set for trial after fatal hit and run of Sand Lake man

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 10:11 am on Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Ronald Williams listens to testimony Tuesday. He is alleged to have fled the scene of a fatal hit-and-run in Pierson Township. — Daily News/Elisabeth Waldon

STANTON — Martin Helton held his head in his hands and his wife, Marcia, sobbed silently Tuesday afternoon as a police officer detailed how the Heltons’ son was struck and killed by a full-size pickup truck last April.

The Heltons were in 64B District Court for a preliminary examination of Ronald Williams, 57, of Howard City.

Williams is charged with failure to stop at the scene of an accident, resulting in serious impairment or death — a felony with a maximum sentence of five years and/or $5,000. He was allegedly driving a pick-up truck the night of April 21 when he struck and killed Tyler Helton, 20, of Sand Lake, on Stanton Road between Jones Road and Maple Hill Road in Pierson Township. Williams then allegedly fled the scene.

Tyler Helton

Judge Donald Hemingsen listened as Montcalm County Prosecutor Andrea Krause and Williams’ defense attorney, Jeff Crampton, questioned several witnesses for the prosecution.

Tim Johnston, who lives on Stanton Road in Pierson Township, testified that he was in his yard around 9 p.m. April 21 when he heard a loud crash. He walked toward the road and saw a white Ford pickup truck slowly coasting by. Johnston said the light outside was still good at 9 p.m. and he could see the front right portion of the truck had extensive damage.

Johnston, thinking the truck had probably hit a deer, started walking toward the accident scene, which was littered with debris from the truck. He was accompanied by a neighbor boy. The truck turned around and drove up to where Johnston and the boy were walking. The truck came to a stop and the driver, identified as Williams, rolled down the passenger side window to talk to Johnston.

“He said he turned around to come back to see if he hit a deer or a person,” Johnston testified. “I thought maybe he was intoxicated, just (due to) his speech and mannerisms. I said, ‘Your truck’s pretty banged up.’ He said, ‘Aw, it’ll be alright.’”

As the two men were talking, the boy walked a short distance away and discovered Helton’s body lying in the grass near the road. The boy returned to the truck to tell Johnston what he had found, just as Williams drove away.

Helton was airlifted to Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids, where he died.

Michigan State Police Trooper Donald Dutcher, a crash technician, testified that a traffic mark on the grass near Helton’s body showed the vehicle had traveled about 60 feet onto the grass before curving onto the road. He said Helton was struck from behind and his body would have been carried at least 100 feet on the hood of the vehicle that struck him.

Martin and Marcia Helton became visibly distraught listening to Dutcher detail the crash, but they remained in the courtroom to listen to all of the testimony.

Michigan State Police Trooper Cimmeron McRae testified about how he went to Williams’ home to interview him the next day. Williams had called 911 after seeing news reports about the hit-and-run.

“He said that he struck something that he thought was a deer,” McRae said. “He seemed to be fairly calm for the type of incident that had occurred.”

McRae said Williams admitted to drinking two beers earlier that day, then going to the Trufant Bar and having a third beer around 8:45 p.m. Williams was headed home from the bar when the accident occurred.

Michigan State Police Sgt. Norma Maylor testified about how she interviewed Williams another time at the police station.

“He stated that he went home (after the accident), went right to bed, but he couldn’t sleep,” she said.

Maylor said Williams lost a son in a traffic accident almost three years ago in October. April 22 — the day after Helton’s accident — would have been Williams’ son’s birthday.

After listening to all the testimony, Hemingsen bound the case over to 8th Judicial Circuit Court for trial at a later date.

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