Officials ask for help in double fatality case
By Mike Belt
The Douglas County Sheriff's Office made a new request for public assistance Thursday as the investigation continues into the Tuesday deaths of two highway workers.
Among the leads investigators are following is that the pickup truck involved in the accident may have been driven through the construction zone nearly an hour before the fatalities occurred.
Officials with the sheriff's office and the Kansas Highway Patrol are asking anyone with information about the fatalities to call detectives at 832-5201 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. or call the TIPS hot line, 843-TIPS (8477).
Tyrone T. Korte, 30, of Seneca, and Rolland "Ron" Griffith, 24, of El Dorado, were hit shortly before 10 a.m. Tuesday by a pickup truck going through a construction zone on U.S. Highway 59 at the southern edge of Pleasant Grove. They died at the scene.
Two women, Ramona I. Morgan, 48, and her daughter Sabrina J. Morgan, 26, are being held in the Osage County Jail on charges related to a police chase shortly after the Douglas County incident. Ramona Morgan is accused of being the driver of the truck, at least while it was in Osage County.
The truck the women were traveling in was a 2002 dark blue Chevrolet A-71 with an extended cab, tinted windows and dealer advertisement tags on the front and back bumpers. The dealership was NEXT2NEW Auto Sales in Sioux Falls, S.D., the sheriff's office said.
Douglas County and Highway Patrol officials say they don't know when the investigation into the fatalities will be completed.
"Any type of fatality incident is going to take a lot of time to process," Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. John Eichkorn said. "It takes quite a bit of time to talk to witnesses, especially in an incident like this where there quite possibly are a lot of witnesses."
The investigation also takes time because it involves two related incidents in two different counties; thus, investigators are working with two prosecutors, Eichkorn said.
"The big thing we want to do here is make sure that we do the best job that we can in collecting the evidence and putting together the reports that will eventually be reviewed by the district attorney," Eichkorn said.
The truck thought to have been driven from the scene in Douglas County was spotted several minutes after the hit-and-run by a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper as it headed west on U.S. Highway 56 into Osage County. The trooper tried to get the truck to pull over, but it didn't stop until Osage County sheriff's officers flattened two of its tires with spike strips.
Ramona Morgan's bond was set at $2 million and Sabrina Morgan's at $1 million. Osage County Attorney Brandon Jones requested high bonds because the Morgans' last known address was in Washington state and they have no known ties to Kansas. Jones also noted the seriousness of the charges and the possibility they may face more serious charges in Douglas County.
Korte, a KDOT worker, and Griffith, who worked for contractor Dustrol Inc., of Towanda, were killed shortly after a truck drove past a flagger stopping traffic at the north end of the construction zone. But that may not have been the first time the truck went through the work zone, according to KDOT.
"We heard reports that (the truck) had gone through there previously, about 45 minutes before, and that the second time there was the fatality, but I don't know any more than that," said KDOT spokesman Stan Whitley.
Whitley did say that the truck was being driven in an erratic manner the first time it went through the construction zone.