Driver charged

Thursday, May 4, 2006

Witnesses say Seagraves was driving vehicle that ran over Village man

A Hardy man has been charged with involuntary manslaughter after allegedly running over a man sitting in the middle of Route E in Oregon County. The victim was Nathan Rhoads, 28, of Cherokee Village.

Kenneth R. Seagraves, 20, of FM 101 Road was arraigned in Oregon County Associate Circuit Court April 26. Seagraves told Judge Jo Beth Prewitt his family was making arrangements to hire an attorney and he would not need the court to appoint a public defender.

Prewitt set his bond at $100,000. Seagraves is in the Thayer Jail. Oregon County Sheriff Tim Ward said the Oregon County Jail at Alton is full.

The accident occurred April 22 at 8:35 p.m. Trooper D.D. Finley of Troop of the Missouri Highway Patrol investigated the accident.

In a probable cause statement provided by the Oregon County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, Finley said Sabrina Lopez, 18, of Hardy was identified as the driver of the purple Mercury that hit and killed Rhoads. Oregon County Prosecuting Attorney Fred O'Neill said Lopez signed a statement after the accident saying she was the driver of the car. No charges were filed at that time.

In the probable cause statement Finley said he returned to the scene of the accident and while there was contacted by two residents of a house directly across from where the accident took place. Both witnesses, who Finley did not identify, said they did not think Lopez was driving the car at the time of the accident. They said they saw Seagraves driving the car three or four minutes before the accident occurred.

They said he was driving recklessly, spinning tires in the gravel of the driveway and showing off. They also said Seagraves had driven through the accident scene approximately 30 seconds before the accident happened, heading north, almost striking Rhoads. They said Seagraves then turned the vehicle around in a driveway, and drove back south on Route E accelerating rapidly. He then locked up the brakes on the car and skidded into Rhoads before running the car off the road.

Rhoads was transported to Ozarks Medical Center in West Plains by Oregon County Ambulance where he was pronounced dead.

Sgt. Kirby Johnson contacted the victim's family. While at the hospital, Johnson said he was contacted by Terry and Brenda Painter who said they had received a call on Seagrave's cell phone at approximately 10 p.m. by a male who identified himself as Seagraves. He told them he had struck Rhoads in the road. He said he was unable to avoid hitting him, and they needed to notify Lisa, the victim's wife. He also said the victim was seriously hurt.

Sgt. Johnson was then contacted by the victim's stepfather, Thomas Hines, who lives in Bakersfield, Calif. Hines said he also received a call from the victim's cell phone at approximately 10 p.m. by a person who identified himself as Kenny. Hines told Johnson that Seagraves apologized repeatedly for running over and killing Rhoads.

Finley said on April 24 he and Sgt. Bruce Fiske conducted a detailed examination of the crash scene on Route E. Finley said during the course of the investigation they were able to obtain a speed calculation using a critical speed yaw tire mark.

He said the calculation indicated that at the point of impact the suspect vehicle was traveling approximately 67 mph in a 55 mph speed zone.

Finley said on April 25 he conducted interviews with all occupants of the vehicle the night of the accident, Seagraves, Lopez and Dustin Rosenbaum, at the Thayer Police Station. Rosenbaum said Seagraves was driving at the time of the crash and Lopez was going to take responsibility for it because Seagraves did not have a driver's license and was on probation.

Finley said during the interview Lopez was confronted with the evidence from the scene and the statement by Rosenbaum. She recanted her statement made the night of the accident and said Seagraves was driving the car when the accident occurred, he said.

Seagraves said he drank approximately six beers during the course of the evening and he was traveling approximately 60 mph when he saw the victim in the road and swerved, locking up his breaks, losing control and striking Rhoads.

Finley said he was driving and Lopez was in the passenger's seat. He also said he had made the cell phone calls to the victim's family using the victim's cell phone he had recovered from the scene of the crash.

Seagraves is on felony probation from Sharp County for accepting stolen property.

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