"He just chose the wrong road to try and get away on," Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton told The Brazil Times about Frederick E. Smeltzer's attempt to use County Road 200 West (Waterworks Road) as an escape route after hitting a vehicle at the intersection of that road and United States 40. "Several law enforcement officers live in that area."
Around 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, several witnesses contacted 911 dispatchers to report a white Oldsmobile Cutlass hit another vehicle and the driver, who was reported as wearing a red bandanna, leave the scene.
Clay County Sheriff's Deputy/K-9 Handler Brison Swearingen drove up shortly after the accident and quickly issued a description of the vehicle to other law enforcement officers. While Swearingen stayed on the scene to make sure the victim, Rita J. Hood, 58, Brazil, received medical assistance and the take witness statements, both on- and off-duty officers began to look for the vehicle.
Complaining of back pain, TransCare transported Hood to St. Vincent Clay Hospital for treatment. Further medical information is unavailable due to privacy laws.
Meanwhile, an unidentified caller reported to 911 officials they were following the suspect south on CR 200 W.
Heaton, who was standing in his front yard, said dispatchers contacted him with the information as the suspect drove past his house.
"I got in my police vehicle and began to follow him," Heaton said. "Brazil City Police Sgt. Mark Loudermilk, who lives a few doors down, saw me leave in a hurry and turned on his police radio. When he heard what was going on, he joined the pursuit."
Det. Jeff Maynard, who also lives in the area, was pulling in his driveway when the information went across the radio.
"This guy was really in the wrong place at the wrong time," Maynard said, adding that he also joined Heaton and Loudermilk in the slow speed pursuit.
As Chief Deputy Rob Gambill and Deputy James Switzer converged on an area near 1116 W CR 450 N (Frontage Road), Smeltzer, 41, Odon, Ind., was stopped by the pursuing officers.
Swearingen and K-9 Officer Dayk were released from the accident scene and dispatched to perform an exterior sniff of Smeltzer's vehicle. Swearingen confirmed that Dayk did detect a scent and drug paraphernalia was discovered in the vehicle at the scene.
Once in custody, Smeltzer was transported the Clay County Justice Center. During the book-in process, officers located an undisclosed amount of methamphetamine on Smeltzer's person. He was preliminarily charged with driving while suspended-prior, leaving the scene of a personal injury accident, operating a vehicle while intoxicated, reckless possession of paraphernalia and possession of methamphetamine.
Officials confirmed this case has been provided to the Clay County Prosecutor's Office for review.
Jail officials confirmed Smeltzer remains incarcerated on a $7,000 cash bond (no 10 percent allowed) while awaiting formal arraignment per the court calendar.