NEW PALESTINE — A Fairland man, Timothy Wayne Merrill, is sitting in the Hancock County Jail after his arrest following a traffic accident two weeks ago that claimed the life of a local woman.
June Jensen, 81, New Palestine, passed away shortly after a hit-and-run, two-vehicle accident near the intersection of U.S. 52 and and 600W (Mt. Comfort Road) in the early morning hours of Wednesday, May 18.
Since the rear-end crash, officials from the New Palestine Police Department had been looking for the suspect after they say Merrill hit a couple’s car and took off from the scene.
Merrill, 44, 7400 block of North 400 West, was arrested Monday, May 30 and charged with a Level 4 felony count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death to another person; a Level 6 felony count of leaving the scene of an accident where the defendant has prior conviction; a Level 6 felony count of theft and a Class A misdemeanor count of leaving the scene of the accident.
New Palestine police chief Bob Ehle credited NPPD deputies Jessy Walley and Douglas Whitaker for making the arrest after spending several days tracking the suspect down and collecting evidence.
“Our guys worked their butts off on this one,” Ehle said. “They were adamant about getting this guy because this wasn’t a minor car accident. This woman died.”
Ehle said the accident happened when Gerald Jensen was driving his wife June Jensen to her early morning doctor appointment in Carmel on May 18. Police learned the couple was rear-ended and the driver of the car who hit them, later identified as Merrill, took off.
Gerald Jensen stated in a probable cause affidavit that before he had a chance to realize what had taken place, the vehicle that hit him left the scene of the crash, and turned northbound on 600W. Gerald Jensen told officials he noted his car was still operable, so rather than deal with a crash report at the time he went ahead and drove his wife to her doctor’s appointment.
“The husband checked on his wife and she said she was OK, but on the way to her doctor’s appointment her health started to demise and she passed away that day,” Ehle said. “Officials determined her death was caused by blunt force trauma.”
The report stated Gerald Jensen briefly pulled over to the side of the road to check his vehicle for damage and to see if the individual who hit them would return to the scene. When the suspect did not return, Gerald Jensen asked June Jensen if she was OK, to which she stated, “I think so.”
Gerald Jensen told officials his wife’s condition worsened as they approached the hospital where her appointment was, the report stated. June Jensen had lost her ability to walk or maintain balance once the couple arrived at the doctor’s appointment, the report added.
The family was told June Jensen passed away due to a head injury revealed in a CT scan that showed she had suffered a brain bleed and was brain dead. She was removed from life support and pronounced dead that same morning, the probable cause stated.
Officials from the NPPD were contacted later that day by the family and started an investigation after learning about what caused the woman’s death.
Ehle said his department shared a social media post shortly after the accident looking for the gray Chevy SUV that hit the couple’s car.
“We found someone who was an eye witness to the accident,” Ehle said.
From there, NPPD officers Walley and Whitaker backtracked and checked with businesses and found video of the suspect at the Speedway gas station in New Palestine.
“That’s where we were able to get a good picture of the suspect and video of his car,” Ehle said.
Officials from the NPPD then served a warrant to Merrill on Monday and took him into custody after they were able to collect evidence including his vehicle, which had signs of being in an accident.
“The suspect’s vehicle has a fairly large dent across the front of it,” Ehle said.
The case was officially opened in Hancock County Superior Court 1 Friday, May 27 according to court documents. According to arrest records, Merrill is being held under a $15,000 cash bond. He’s slated to be back in court again in late July.