Man pleads guilty in Winona hit-and-run
WINONA — A driver who Winona authorities were searching for last year after a hit-and-run that injured two men has pleaded guilty to felony criminal vehicular operation.
Arin Gary Slaby, 31, of Fountain City, Wis., entered the plea Wednesday in Winona County District Court. He was released on his own recognizance and is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 2.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both.
The incident occurred Jan. 18, 2014, about two blocks from the Winona police station. When officers arrived, several witnesses described the vehicle involved as a blue pickup that had left the scene, possibly crossing the bridge into Wisconsin.
Two pedestrians headed north across Broadway in the crosswalk about 10:15 p.m. had been hit. Witnesses said a westbound SUV stopped in the left lane to let the men cross; Slaby was reportedly driving in the right lane and hit the men.
A 19-year-old victim later told investigators he hung on to the truck because he was scared that it was going to run over him again if he let go. He let go about a half-block down; he suffered injuries to his right knee and left ankle.
The 20-year-old with him was thrown into the air when he was hit, witnesses said, but he doesn't remember anything else. The man was airlifted to Gundersen Health System in La Crosse, Wis., where he was treated for a broken pelvis.
Officers collected blue paint chips and pieces of a broken bug shield at the scene.
In October, police received a tip that the pickup they were looking for was at a used car lot in Stanley, Wis. The vehicle matched the description from witnesses, the complaint says, and had damage to the center of the grill and hood. Missing pieces from the grill, front license plate bracket and bug shield reportedly matched pieces recovered the night of the crash.
Investigators went to the address of the truck owner; a woman there confirmed the truck was hers, and said Slaby had hit a deer.
Slaby called authorities the next day, and said he'd been having nightmares about the incident.
According to the complaint, he said "these kids just ran right across ... next thing you know, they ran right in front of the (SUV) ...," adding that "those kids should not have been running across the crosswalk."
Slaby told investigators he "freaked out and got scared," because he didn't have a valid driver's license. He didn't tell the woman about what really happened, the report says, and denied drinking the night of the incident.
Slaby has four DWI offenses on his record, according to court documents, as well as four offenses for driving on a revoked or suspended license.