KALAMAZOO (WWJ) – A new trial date has been set for a driver accused of plowing into a group of bicyclists, killing five of them and injuring four more in southwestern Michigan.
Charles Pickett Jr. is charged with five counts of second-degree murder for allegedly driving drugged and causing the fatal June 7, 2016 crash. The 51-year-old also faces five counts of operating while intoxicated causing death and four counts of operating while intoxicated causing serious injury.
Jury selection is scheduled to start April 23 in Kalamazoo County Circuit Court.
Police said the cyclists — part of a group that called themselves “The Chain Gang” — were five miles into a weekly 30-mile ride in rural Cooper Township, in June of 2016, when they were struck from behind by Pickett’s pickup truck. Police said they received complaints about a pickup being driven erratically and were searching for it minutes before the crash. Pickett fled but was caught by police shortly afterward.
Pickett had reportedly taken pain pills and muscle relaxers less than two hours before the crash.
Killed were 53-year-old Debra Ann Bradley of Augusta; 42-year-old Melissa Ann Fevig-Hughes of Augusta; 73-year-old Fred Anton Nelson of Kalamazoo; 73-year-old Lorenz John Paulik of Kalamazoo and 56-year-old Suzanne Joan Sippel of Augusta. The four injured bicyclists, as identified by police, were Paul Gobble, Sheila Jeske, Jennifer Johnson and Paul Runnels
Defense attorney Alan Koenig has argued that the prosecution’s evidence wasn’t enough to send Pickett to trial for second-degree murder. His argument made it all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.
Pickett remains held without bond.
© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.