Fairland man to spend multiple years in prison for hit-and-run death

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HANCOCK COUNTY — The Fairland man who caused the death of an elderly New Palestine woman following a hit-and-run crash in the spring of 2022 was sentenced this week in Hancock County Superior Court 1.

Timothy Wayne Merrill, 45, 7400 block of North 400 West, was given a 10-year prison term Wednesday, Jan. 18 and will have to serve the vast majority, seven years, in the Indiana Department of Corrections. The rest of the sentence will be served on probation, officials said.

“This really was a tragic case,” prosecutor Brent Eaton said. “We wanted to make sure justice was served in this case and we did.”

June Jensen, 81, New Palestine, passed away shortly after a hit-and-run, two-vehicle crash near the intersection of U.S. 52 and and 600W (Mt. Comfort Road) in the early morning hours of May 18, 2022.

Merrill rear-ended the car Jensen was in and took off from the scene only to be tracked down by officials from the New Palestine Police Department May, 30, 2022.

He was originally 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.

Eaton credited officers from the NPPD for doing all the work to hold Merrill accountable. At the time of the crash, NP chief Bob Ehle said officers Jessy Walley and Douglas Whitaker followed up and investigated the crash and were able to arrest Merrill after spending several days tracking him down and collecting solid evidence, which also showed him stealing goods from a local store.

“Our guys worked their butts off on this one,” Ehle said at the time. “They were adamant about getting this guy because this wasn’t a minor car accident. This woman died.”

The accident happened when Gerald Jensen was driving his wife June Jensen to an early morning doctor appointment in Carmel on May 18, 2022. 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.”

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 after 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.

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