A Franklin police detective followed cellphone records to a woman who offered clues about where the suspect in a hit-and-run that seriously injured three people might have been just minutes before the crash.
The clues led the investigator to a restaurant where surveillance video showed the suspect, Will Slinger, leaving the parking lot headed toward where the three-vehicle crash would occur minutes later.
In that video, the Toyota RAV4 he was driving did not have damage, according to a probable cause affidavit.
That surveillance provided the crucial evidence needed to charge Slinger, 29, of Franklin, with three felony counts of leaving the scene of an accident with serious bodily injury, the prosecutor said.
Johnson County Prosecutor Brad Cooper filed the charges Wednesday. Slinger initially was arrested in April when police identified the vehicle used in the crash, but the ongoing police investigation turned up additional evidence that Slinger was in the area at the time of the accident.
Franklin police began searching for Slinger to arrest him again after the charges were filed. Officers found him hiding in an outside storage room at a local restaurant on Wednesday evening, Deputy Chief Chris Tennell said.
The accident happened on Jan. 23 on King Street, just east of downtown.
Since his initial arrest, police subpoenaed Slinger’s cellphone records and interviewed a woman who called his phone multiple times just before the accident, according to the probable cause affidavit. She told police that Slinger had lost his cellphone, and he had come to her house shortly before 11:30 a.m. the day of the accident to see if it was there. The two had gone out drinking the night before, then went to the Waffle House, then came to her house, the affidavit said.
She called his phone to see if they could hear it. They did not find the phone, and Slinger left, she told police.
Detective Adam Joseph went to the restaurant to look at surveillance video to see if Slinger checked the restaurant for his phone around the time of the accident. The recording captured Slinger, driving the suspected vehicle. He went inside the restaurant, stood at the counter and left at 11:41 a.m., turning westbound on East King Street. In that video, the vehicle was not damaged, the affidavit said.
The accident happened about that time on King Street in the residential area east of the flashing light.
The vehicle was caught again on video from the Franklin Parks and Recreation Center on Branigin Boulevard and State Street, near Franklin College, one minute after the accident was reported to 911 dispatchers. This time, the vehicle’s front bumper was hanging low, the affidavit said.
The videos provided crucial evidence that allowed charges to be filed, Cooper said.
“Without it, it couldn’t have been proven,” he said. “Patience has paid off.”
Witnesses said the vehicle was headed westbound and driving too fast when it hit a vehicle driven by Grant Black from behind, forcing Black’s vehicle into oncoming traffic and into the path of Mary Anne Litwicki and her husband Mitch Wolhmuth.
Black had multiple injuries, including 16 fractured ribs, a broken fibula, a broken sternum and a shattered elbow.
Wolhmuth was in a coma for more than a month and suffered a serious brain injury. Litwicki had a shattered wrist and compound fracture in her ankle and has since had multiple surgeries.
The affidavit does not outline what, if any, reason Slinger provided for fleeing the accident scene. He told police he was the person driving the vehicle on Jan. 23 because that was his birthday, the affidavit said.
A hit-and-run causing serious bodily injury is the lowest-level felony, according to state law. If convicted, each charge carries a maximum penalty of 2.5 years, Cooper said. He was charged with one count for each person injured, Cooper said.
Slinger, of 764 Shore View Drive, Franklin, was previously arrested, convicted and sent to prison for an accident in 2005.
April Mulry, 29, died Sept. 10, 2005, after Slinger failed to stop at a stop sign at County Roads 575E and 600N in Clark Township. His vehicle struck the side of the van driven by April’s husband, Brian Mulry. The couple’s 5-week-old daughter, Alyson, was also in the vehicle.
Slinger, who was 18 at the time, told police he had smoked marijuana the day of the accident.
He pleaded guilty to two felonies: operating a vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance and causing death while operating a vehicle under the influence of a controlled substance, and was sentenced to seven years in prison and one year on probation.
He later asked for his sentence to be modified, and it was changed to six years in prison.
Indiana Department of Correction records show he was released after serving just more than two years of his sentence.
A criminal record cannot be considered as part of new charges unless or until a suspect is convicted, Cooper said. Previous convictions can be considered during sentencing, he said.