Impaired driver jailed for running over motorcyclist, fleeing scenePublished 11:50am Friday, March 22, 2013
CASSOPOLIS — A Dowagiac woman said she panicked when she saw the face of the man she had just run over with her sports utility vehicle while driving impaired on M-51 in Dowagiac Aug. 1.
Kathy Morse, 41, recognized the seriously injured man as her child’s dance instructor, 21-year-old Zachary Cox.
According to witnesses, Morse yelled for someone to call 911 and then fled the scene in her vehicle.
“I don’t know why I left, I don’t know why, I just freaked out and I’m so sorry for that,” said Morse before being sentenced by Judge Michael Dodge to 365 days in jail and three years probation Friday in Cass County Circuit Court.
Morse pleaded no contest in January to driving on a suspended license causing serious injury and failing to stop at the scene of an accident.
A blood test revealed Morse had methadone and an alcohol level of .02 in her system. Morse, an admitted heroin user, had a prescription for methadone.
According to the accident report, Morse was driving her Ford Explorer north on M-51 outside of Dowagiac near the intersection of M-152 when she crossed the centerline into south bound traffic and hit a motorcycle driven by Cox head on.
Witnesses said Morse’s vehicle ran over the top of the motorcycle before dragging it and Cox into the parking lot of a nearby gas station.
Morse then, according to witnesses, drove off the motorcycle, opened her door and yelled for someone to call 911 before driving away.
“There is no disputing the fact that you did ultimately drive away and left Mr. Cox there, possibly to die, without rendering him any assistance,” Dodge said.
According to Assistant Prosecutor Tiffiny Vohwinkle, a motorist who witnessed the accident followed Morse and alerted police to her location. She was arrested about five miles away from the scene.
Cox, who spoke at Friday’s sentencing, said he spent nine days in the hospital unable to sit up and another two months at home confined to a bed and wheel chair. He still suffers from nerve damage and other injuries that may never fully heal.
“For someone to leave me like that… I can’t understand that,” he said.
Morse’s prior record includes two alcohol-related misdemeanor convictions, one for impaired driving and the other for operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
Sentencing guidelines for Morse were seven to 23 months.
“The impact this crash has had on his life is devastating,” Dodge said. “You ruined his career as a dance instructor and destroyed any semblance of a normal life for him. He will be dealing with the effects of this situation his whole life.”