Jul 29, 2013 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
The man who struck and killed 25-year-old Cazenovia native Maegan Spindler and her co-worker with his minivan in Pickstown, S.D., on July 8 was arrested last week and charged with two counts of vehicular homicide.
Ronald Ray Fischer, 28, of the Yankton Indian Reservation, turned himself in to police on July 23, four days after a warrant was issued for his arrest by a Charles Mix County court. He was arraigned in Charles Mix County Court on July 25, was appointed a public defender by the court and ordered held on $200,000 cash bond, according to a report in the Sioux Falls, S.D., Argus Leader. No further court date has yet been scheduled.
Attempts to contact Charles Mix County State’s Attorney Thomas Deadrick, who is prosecuting the case, were unsuccessful as of press time.
Spindler, a 2006 graduate of Cazenovia High School, along with Dr. Robert Allan Klumb, 46, of Pierre, S.D., both were killed July 8, after Fischer failed to stop his Chrysler Town and Country minivan at a stop sign at the intersection of Highway 18 and Highway 46 near Pickstown, according to the South Dakota Highway Patrol. The van continued into a hotel parking lot, hitting the two pedestrians and two parked vehicles.
Spindler and Klum were killed after completing a long day’s work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, where they were working on the recovery of the endangered sturgeon in the Missouri River.
Fischer was injured in the crash, treated at a hospital in Wagner then transferred to Sioux Falls, where he was later released.
Fischer was not arrested immediately after the accident because state highway patrol investigators were waiting for the results of his toxicology tests to determine whether his actions were the results of drunk driving or a possible medical condition, said Lt. Alan Welsh, assistant district commander for the Sioux Falls district of the South Dakota State Highway Patrol.
The tests showed that Fischer had a blood alcohol content of .23 — or more than twice the legal limit — and also had marijuana in his system, according to police.
“We were waiting for the blood [tests] to come back; we can’t make an arrest without the facts,” Welsh said in explanation of why Fischer’s arrest occurred 11 days after the accident. “It was what we suspected [i.e. DWI] and he was charged.”
Gregg and Susan Spindler, the parents of Maegan Spindler and Cazenovia residents, issued a statement after Fischer’s arrest calling it, “very distressing that [Fischer] was still at large [after the accident], especially after learning the sheriff did not have power to arrest him on tribal lands. The family of Maegan Spindler is thankful and relieved this has happened; if authorities would have had to go and arrest him, it would have been a more drawn-out process and could have resulted in violence.”
The Spindlers said they expect further charges to be brought against Fischer.
Fischer was charged with two counts of vehicular homicide, a felony, one for each victim. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of up to 15 years in prison.
Fischer has not been charged with DWI at present because the main criteria for a vehicular homicide charge is that the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs when a victim was killed, and the felony homicide charges carry greater penalties, Welsh said. However, the charges against Fischer can be amended in the future to include DWI if the state’s attorney decides to do so, he said.
According to reporting by the Argus Leader, Fischer has previous convictions in South Dakota for possession of marijuana, five instances of alcohol possession by a minor and convictions for driving without a license, failure to use proper child restraints and failure to get his children to school.
Maegan Spindler, who had a bachelor’s degree in wildlife science from SUNY ESF and a fisheries diploma in 2011 from Vancouver Island University, was planning to start graduate school in 2014 to continue work on native fish species.
A funeral service was held for her Sunday, July 14, in the Oran Community Church in Oran.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.