GREENFIELD — It took Deputy Russ Silver a few minutes to recall the details, but he remembers that crash.
He remembers standing at the corner of State Road 234 and County Road 300W on that summer afternoon in 2012; remembered how the pickup truck was wrapped around a utility pole; how he immediately suspected the driver had been drinking.
Five years passed without any word of the investigation, he said. Then, early this year, Silver got a phone call that county prosecutors are moving forward with the criminal case — months before the statute of limitations is due to run out.
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Silver had handed the paperwork from his investigation over to the Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office in 2012, asking that criminal charges be filed against Martin Smith of Greenfield — who had a blood-alcohol content three times the legal limit when he ran a stop sign and crashed his pickup truck into another vehicle, police said.
A passenger in the other car suffered a severe spinal injury, and Silver hoped to bring her a little justice, Silver said. The woman has since made a full recovery.
This month – nearly five years after the wreck occurred – the prosecutor’s office filed charges against Smith, now 48. If a few more weeks had gone by, the statute of limitations would have prohibited them from going forward, said Prosecutor Brent Eaton said.
The case file was found by chance, unearthed by an employee who was clearing out old paperwork from the former prosecutor’s administration. It was a report Eaton’s predecessor, Michael Griffin, who left office at the end of 2014, said he never saw.
Smith now faces a single Class C felony count of operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing serious bodily injury that dates back to August 2012, records show. The charge could send him to prison for eight years.
Smith, 3303 W. U.S. 40, Greenfield, turned himself into police this week after learning a charge had been filed. He bonded out two hours after his arrest and will go before a judge for the first time next month, records show.
The crash happened on Aug. 8, 2012, near the intersection of County Road 300W and State Road 234.
Smith was driving a white pickup truck southbound on County Road 300W when he ran a stop sign and collided with a light blue passenger car that was headed eastbound on State Road 234, according to police reports.
Two people in the blue car were injured, officials said. Medics rushed the front seat passenger to the hospital, where doctors found she had fractured her spine in the accident.
Police could tell immediately Smith was drunk behind the wheel, reports state. Police “could smell the odor of an alcoholic beverage” on Smith, according to police reports. Tests later showed he had a blood-alcohol content of .25 percent – nearly three times the legal driving limit of .08, officials said.
Smith had glassy, bloodshot eyes and poor balance, and he was slurring his words as he talked to detectives at the scene, police said.
Smith was aggressive with first-responders at the scene of the accident, officials said. Smith refused to answer medics’ questions and “was hateful towards both the medics and the other deputies on the scene,” charging documents state. He was equally uncooperative when they reached the hospital, where staffers drew his blood to test for drugs or alcohol, police said.
Investigators later learned Smith had a history of drunken driving, records state: he pleaded guilty to operating while intoxicated in 2009 in Hendricks County and served a year on probation.
Silver said he handed his crash report over to then-prosecutor Griffin’s office a few days after the crash occurred.
Silver never learned what became of the case; officers typically aren’t able to follow-up on every accident report they submit, he said. But he’d expected everything had been settled, that justice for the victim had been served.
Griffin told the Daily Reporter he had no recollection of the accident report; in August 2012, he was serving an eight-month tour of duty as a judge advocate at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He declined to comment further on the case.
Griffin told the Daily Reporter at the time he planned to regularly communicate with his staff and oversee important cases while he was overseas, just as though he were in the office as he still collected a paycheck from the county.
Tami Napier, who served as Griffin’s chief deputy prosecutor and led the office in his absence, also doesn’t remember the case. She said staff members followed procedures to make sure every case was handled in a timely manner. That included keeping a log tracking whether charges were filed. She couldn’t recall a time the staff declined to prosecute someone blood tests showed was drunk.
Eaton said his staffer’s discovered the paperwork on the accident in November and immediately began vetting the case. They made contact with the victim, learned she was willing to cooperate with any investigation and filed a criminal charge against Smith.
Smith learned a warrant had been issued for his arrest and hired Carmel attorney David Seiter to represent him. Seiter said Smith came to his office and during their first meeting expressed surprise about the criminal allegations.
Seiter declined to comment on the case further.
In the days following the crash in 2012, Silver’s main concern was the victim, the devastating injuries she had suffered. He hoped if Smith were convicted, a court would order him to pay her medical bills.
It’s a hope he still has.
“It’s discouraging because you turn the report in and assume it will be handled,” Silver said. “Luckily, they caught it.”
Martin Smith, 48, 3303 W. U.S. 40, Greenfield, faces a single Class C felony count of operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing serious bodily injury that dates back to August 2012, records show.
Police believe Smith was drunk behind the wheel when ran a stop sign near the intersection of County Road 300W and State Road 234 and caused an accident five years ago, according to court documents.
The charge could send him to prison for eight years.
A judge has ordered Smith appear for a hearing at 2:30 p.m. April 19 in Hancock County Superior Court 1. The proceedings are open to the public.