Austin man pleads guilty to leaving accident scene
The Austin man pleaded guilty to leaving the accident scene at an October crash, which left a woman with a broken leg.
Michael Lee Rutledge, 30, entered the pleas Friday in Mower County District Court. He pleaded guilty to criminal vehicular homicide or operation-driver who causes accident leaves scene; and DWI, both gross misdemeanors. In exchange for the plea, two felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide or operation were dismissed.
The incident began Oct. 22, when Austin police officers were dispatched about 8:20 a.m. for a report of a two-car crash on West Oakland Avenue. A car was on its roof, blocking westbound traffic in front of the Ford dealership.
According to the criminal complaint, the driver of the other vehicle told officers the first car was traveling behind him at a "high rate of speed and was going to crash into him." The man said he tried to swerve to the right to avoid the collision, but the car hit the rear driver's side corner of his car.
Upon impact, the first car went airborne, rolled over and slid to a stop on its roof. The man said the driver, later identified by the passenger and two eyewitnesses as Rutledge, ran away.
An eyewitness approached officers and told them he'd seen the accident, told Rutledge to stop, but he "took off running," the report says. The witness said he chased Rutledge, who had blood on his face, but lost him near Western Manor Apartments.
The crash left the passenger, a 34-year-old woman, with a broken left leg.
As officers continued their investigation, they learned that minutes before the crash, "a drunk male," again later identified as Rutledge, had put $20 in gas in his car using a credit card. The clerk on duty at the time told authorities that after Rutledge fueled up, he entered the store and said something about the credit card machine not working — then paid another $20 in cash.
Rutledge, whom the clerk said had a strong odor of alcohol about him, bought a pack of cigarettes, returned to his car and drove away without putting more gas in the Monte Carlo or collecting his credit card receipt.
Rutledge turned himself in to Austin police two days later.
He's scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 24.