GREENFIELD — A months-long manhunt has come to an end.
Nearly two months after a warrant was first issued, two months of chasing down leads that led to dead ends, Jason Phelps is behind bars, police said
The 42-year-old Greenfield man is accused of being behind the wheel during the drunken-driving crash that killed his girlfriend earlier this year, according to charging documents. Phelps, 45 W. Fourth St., was mostly unhurt in the March 4 crash, and after seeking medical treatment for minor injuries, he fled the area, police said.
He was found over the weekend in Bloomfield — a small town southwest of Bloomington, in the heart of Greene County, police said.
Phelps faces a single Level 4 felony count of causing death while operating while intoxicated. Investigators say Phelps was driving with a blood-alcohol content more than three times the .08 percent legal limit when he lost control of his car and collided with a house on the city’s south side.
His girlfriend, Dalene Charron, 45, of Greenfield, was riding in the front passenger seat at the time of the wreck. She later died from her injuries at an Indianapolis hospital.
Phelps was southbound on State Road 9 in Greenfield just before 11:30 p.m. March 4 when he sped through a curve in the roadway and lost control of his vehicle, according to court documents.
The car rolled several times and hit a home in the 600 block of South State Street, coming to rest on its roof with its front end stuck inside the home. A man and two children were inside the home at the time of the accident, but they were not injured, police said.
According to court records, Phelps had a blood-alcohol content of 0.23 percent at the time of the accident.
At the scene, Phelps was visibly intoxicated, police said. He slurred his words, struggled to keep his balance and was uncooperative with investigators, police said.
Charron was driven by ambulance to Hancock Regional Hospital, then airlifted to St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis. She died there a week later, officials said.
Prosecutors filed the case against Phelps on March 25, but by then, he had fled the area, police said.
A warrant for his arrest has been pending since the end March, and investigators have spent weeks searching for him, even going door to door locally to ask residents for information on his whereabouts.
A tip led police to Bloomfield late Friday night, said Dan Devoy, a Hancock County Community Corrections field officer who often helps law enforcement track down defendants who are suspected of evading arrest.
Investigators spent weeks fielding tips from community members and police across the state, many of which came to a dead end, Devoy said. Eventually, it was a bit of luck coupled with good police work that helped officers finally find Phelps, he said.
Devoy declined to release specifics about the tip that lead to Phelps’ arrest, saying only that investigators were able to trace the man’s relatives to the Bloomfield area.
They took a chance Friday night and knocked on a door, he said.
They found Phelps in the kitchen of a home in the town, and with the help of Greene County law enforcement, they took him into custody. He was cooperative, Devoy said.
Phelps was booked into the Hancock County Jail early Saturday morning.
Monday, he appeared in Hancock Superior Court 1 and pleaded not guilty to the charges he faces. He was being held in jail on a $15,000 cash bond at press time. Phelps declined to comment for this story, as did his attorney, John Tompkins of Indianapolis.
Devoy said detectives with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department and Greenfield Police Department played a key role in helping find Phelps.
“It all comes down to process of elimination,” he said. “You have to look at every lead and just run with it.”
Greenfield Police Chief Jeff Rasche, whose department investigated the crash that killed Charron, said he’s thankful Phelps is finally behind bars. Now, it’s up to the courts to bring Phelps to justice.
“He had to know he’s going to be held accountable,” Rasche said. “I think we have a solid case against him.”