Milwaukee man charged with reckless homicide for Jackson County, Ind. crash that killed child
Police say his car never touched any other vehicles -- and there is no reference to drugs, alcohol or texting -- yet he's charged with reckless homicide. Here's why.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Milwaukee man has been arrested and charged with reckless homicide more than year after police say he caused a crash that killed an 8-year-old girl from Indiana -- and police say his vehicle never touched any of the other cars.
According to a probable cause affidavit, 54-year-old Ernest John Pagels was in the process of driving a Kia Forte from his home in Wisconsin to a job interview in Florida, when he "became irate" because he felt that a woman in a minivan -- a Dodge Grand Caravan -- was tailgating him. He was driving in the right-hand lane.
Pagels allegedly told police that he kept slowing down, hoping that the minivan would pull into the fast lane and pass him, but he said this didn't happen. According to the probable cause affidavit, Pagels eventually slowed to a complete stop, forcing the driver in the minivan to go around him.
When the minivan pulled into the fast lane, it was immediately hit by a Mercury Grand Marquis. Police say the driver of that Marquis looked away briefly and didn't see the minivan, ramming into it from behind. As a result, police say the Caravan went off the road and into an embankment.
Police say the driver of the Marquis was a man who was driving back from an audition for America's Got Talent in Chicago at the time. According to the probable cause affidavit, the driver of the minivan was an Elwood, Indiana woman taking her four children to see a puppy.
Four children that were inside that Dodge van suffered injuries according to police. Police say 8-year-old Mecenzie Bickel, a 6-year-old girl and 2-year-old boy were all airlifted to Norton Children's Hospital in Louisville to be treated for "critical life-threatening injuries." Police say a fourth child, a 4-year-old female, was taken to Norton Children's Hospital by ambulance for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.
Bickel died from her injuries days later, on Nov. 26, 2016.
According to the probable cause affidavit, police determined that Pagels did indeed come to a complete stop in the right-hand lane of I-65, though they say there is no evidence that the driver of the Dodge Grand Caravan was tailgating him.
"From this trooper's nine years experience as an Indiana State Trooper, coming to a stop in the travel lanes of Interstate 65 in any location creates dangerous hazards for other drivers due to the speed other vehicles are traveling and the amount of traffic on I-65," a trooper wrote in the probable cause affidavit.
Police say Pagels' vehicle was never touched in the crash.
A warrant was issued for Pagels' arrest, and he was taken into custody on Wednesday. He's charged with reckless homicide, reckless driving and obstruction of traffic. He is currently being held in the Jackson County Detention Center.
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