ST. GEORGE – A Hurricane man pleaded guilty in 5th District Court Monday in connection with a fatal vehicle-pedestrian incident that occurred earlier this year.
Initially charged with second-degree felony vehicle homicide involving criminal negligence involving DUI, Randahl Hill, 25, of Hurricane, pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony for an accident that resulted in a death. The individual who died as a result of the accident was identified as 52-year-old Arkansas resident Bruce Smale. (See Ed. Note below)
Deputy Washington County Attorney Zach Weiland said the vehicle homicide charge was removed as it was learned that Smale’s death wasn’t caused by being hit by a vehicle.
Rather, in a possible attempt to stop Hill, Smale ended up jumping on the hood of Hill’s car in an attempt to get him to stop driving while intoxicated, Weiland said. Smale, who was also intoxicated, fell off the hood and hit his head against the pavement. This resulted in his death.
“We believe it was a tragic accident,” Weiland said, yet added it was one that could have been avoided if Hill hadn’t been drunk while behind the wheel of a car.
Hill also pleaded guilty to two class B misdemeanors for driving under the influence of alcohol and reckless driving.
The prosecution wasn’t seeking prison time for Hill because of his cooperation during the investigation and his lack of criminal history, Weiland said. Instead, they recommended Hill spend a year in the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility.
Weiland had spoken with the family of the victim and they were in favor of the recommendation.
Any additional sentencing recommendations will be set forth in a pre-sentencing investigation report to be presented to 5th District Judge Eric Ludlow for consideration.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 7, 2016.
Around 5 a.m. on May 19, in the area of 300 N. 35 West in Hurricane, police were called out to a scene where a man — later identified as Smale — was lying in the roadway. He was confirmed dead at the scene by responders.
Hill was accused of driving under the influence of alcohol and causing Smale’s death in an incident involving Hill’s 1994 Mustang.
Hill later told police he and Smale had been drinking beer since 10 p.m. the night before and that he had consumed at least 12 cans of beer during that time.
Witnesses told police Smale had been on the hood of a Mustang and had fallen off. Several skid and tread marks allegedly matching the Mustang gave investigators the impression that the car had been moving at a high rate of speed, according to court documents.
“Witnesses provided information that Randahl was driving, and investigators interviewed him regarding the details of the incident,” Hurricane City Police Sgt. Brandon Buell said in press release. “Randahl told investigators that the victim was on the hood of the vehicle as he drove away very quickly and continued driving as he fell off. Witnesses have also confirmed seeing the victim on the hood of the vehicle.”
When police first encountered Hill, he smelled of alcohol and had trouble walking and keeping his balance, Buell said.
During an interview with police, Hill said he was doing a “burn out” in his Mustang when Smale fell off the hood. He said he left the scene and came back a short time later, returning to find his mother standing over Smale’s body, according to a probable cause statement.
ED. CORRECTION: This report has been updated to reflect that Hill pleaded guilty to a felony for an accident that resulted in a death, rather than a felony for failing to stay at the scene of an accident.
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