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Bond hiked for driver charged in fatal hit-skip

Girl’s body found under SUV nearly 130 feet from point of impact

November 20, 2012
Morning Journal News

LISBON - Bond was increased to $100,000 cash or surety Monday afternoon for Todd Roberts, the Washingtonville man accused of failing to stop after an accident which caused the death of a 9-year-old Salem girl on Nov. 9.

Columbiana County Municipal Court Judge Carol Robb bound Roberts over to the county grand jury and then had bailiffs take him into custody after hearing testimony during the preliminary hearing.

Roberts, 27, East Main Street, Washingtonville, had been released initially on a $10,000 surety bond. However, Robb cited two troubling parts of Monday's testimony which caused her to increase the bond.

"The first fact is the admission of consumption of alcohol," Robb said, "and the second fact is the defendant stopped to adjust a headlight but did not stop after striking a child.

"I appreciate the fact he surrendered to police," the judge continued, adding he waited until "the next day, after there was no further opportunity to test his blood alcohol level."

Throughout the hearing, there were tough moments for the family of Olivia Thompson, the fourth-grader who died from her injuries after she was struck by a pickup on East State Street near South Lundy Avenue.

Salem patrolman Brent Slider testified when he arrived at the crash he found the girl's shoes in two different places before locating what first appeared to be a "small jumble of clothing" under an SUV. It appeared she had serious trauma to her left leg and her right leg was curved, Slider testified. She was unresponsive and he could not find a pulse. He called immediately for medical assistance.

Further investigation, including video surveillance, later determined the impact was nearly 130 feet from where Slider found the girl's crumpled body. She was struck near the Dollar General.

A 12-year-old girl who had been walking in front of Thompson at the time of the crash returned to talk to police after running home to have a family member call 911. The hysterical girl reportedly told Slider Thompson was struck by a small black pickup which drove away.

A driver, Melanie Sturgeon, who was eastbound about a block away, also reported a small black pickup driving erratically in the area. Slider said Sturgeon reported seeing something thrown from the pickup, instead of someone struck.

Salem police Detective David Talbert testified Roberts called the sheriff's department utilizing 911 the next morning.

"He was in an accident and believed he had struck somebody," Talbert testified about Roberts' statement to police the day following the accident. "He thought they were wearing a piece of clothing similar to what his daughter was wearing."

Talbert said Roberts admitted to not stopping because he had consumed some alcohol at BB Rooners with a female friend prior to the crash. Talbert said his investigation, which included interviewing others in the establishment and reviewing video surveillance, revealed Roberts drank one and a half beers just prior to leaving. The crash was less than two blocks from BB Rooners. Talbert testified Roberts did stop after the crash in the Papa John's Pizza lot to adjust his headlight before driving eastbound toward Washingtonville.

Roberts drives a 1998 Chevy S-10, which has been towed and processed by the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation. Talbert testified there is front end damage to the vehicle.

Roberts' attorney, James Hartford, questioned investigators about how many cars were parked along the street at the time of the crash, which happened after dark. He also asked what the child was wearing. He asked Slider to mark on a map the locations where the girl was believed struck and where she was located.

Hartford also questioned the names of other East State Street businesses and patrol cars from which investigators are still in the process of gathering surveillance video.



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