Driver who allegedly ran over couple is charged with homicide after they die months later

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ST. GEORGE — A St. George man is facing two charges of automobile homicide after a husband and wife, both in their 80s, died from injuries allegedly sustained when they were struck by his car several months earlier.

Austin Betts, 24, was originally scheduled for a preliminary hearing Tuesday, but it was rescheduled for Oct. 1.

Police say Betts ran over the couple on South 700 East, across from the Dixie State University Cox Performing Arts Center on Dec. 15, 2016, when he took his eyes off the road to look down at his phone.

Washington County Attorney’s Office in January filed two third-degree felony counts of automobile homicide involving the use of a handheld wireless communication device while driving.

Read more: Distracted driver ends phone call, hits 2 pedestrians

The couple, Marlene and Charles Wood, were transported to Dixie Regional Medical Center with serious injuries, according to the police report.

Charles Wood, 81, died on May 27, 2017.

According to the state medical examiner, the immediate cause of his death was influenza which developed after a fall with a hip fracture “due to the right femoral fracture and multiple rib fractures due to motor vehicle versus pedestrian accident,” with Parkinson’s disease and dementia also noted in the report.

Marlene Wood, also 81, died in a care facility on Aug. 19, 2017, and the medical examiner concluded that her death “was caused by respiratory failure due to automobile accident.”

According to an indictment filed with the court earlier this year, Betts had turned on his iPhone just prior to getting into his vehicle and while traveling north on 700 East his phone began to ring. He looked down to turn it off and when his eyes returned to the road, “he saw a female walking towards his car. He slammed on the brakes but could not avoid striking her.”

Betts was “unaware at the time that he had also struck the male that was walking beside her.”

Prosecutor Ryan Shaum, with the Washington County Attorney’s Office, told St. George News that the decision to file charges was based on evidence provided by police after the crash and “that evidence was sufficient to justify the charges.”

“It’s a complicated case, and there wasn’t just one factor considered when deciding whether to file charges. In fact, there were several factors that we looked at during the screening process.”

Shaum also said there are issues “unique in this case” that could not be released at this point.

C. Danny Frazier, a defense attorney in South Jordan, confirmed that he is representing Betts, but was unavailable for further comment.

This report is based on statements from police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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4 Comments

  • Rob83 September 7, 2018 at 7:01 am

    Sounds like a case of negligence in the Health care world, sure, let’s just blame an innocent guy, who’s life has just began! I’m disgusted by this story.

  • Rob83 September 7, 2018 at 7:03 am

    Also, I believe the couple was not in a cross walk on a not well lit street. Just because Betts was honest about looking down for a second, whether it was his phone or changing the dial on his radio, the couple clearly walked out in front of him.

    • Mike P September 7, 2018 at 9:01 am

      This is a typical response nowadays. Blame someone else for your actions. Seriously , your even blaming the “health care” system for this young mans negligence ? If he was paying attention, this wouldn’t have happened. Plain and simple.

  • mctrialsguy September 7, 2018 at 4:32 pm

    Driver runs over couple while on the phone. I don’t care if they were standing in the middle of the street, he hit them in a vehicle on the phone!

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