Archive for Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Driver guilty of fleeing officers after U.S. 59 fatalities

April 23, 2008

LYNDON - An Osage County jury on Tuesday found a woman guilty of trying to flee police last year after two highway workers died in a hit-and-run incident south of Lawrence.

Ramona I. Morgan, 48, also was found guilty of misdemeanor traffic violations that included reckless driving, failure to use a turn signal and failure to maintain a single lane. Fleeing from police is a felony.

After deliberating about two hours, the jury found Morgan not guilty of two counts of speeding.

Morgan, who remains in Osage County Jail on $100,000 bond, will be sentenced May 20. Then she will be brought to Douglas County to face two charges of reckless second-degree murder in the highway workers' deaths. Prosecutors allege that on Sept. 11, 2007, Morgan struck the workers as she drove her pickup truck through a construction zone on U.S. Highway 59 near Pleasant Grove.

Shortly after the men were hit, a truck matching the description of the one that left the scene was spotted in Osage County on U.S. Highway 56. A Kansas Highway Patrol trooper pursued the truck for 12 miles until it stopped after its front tires were flattened by spikes officers had placed on the highway.

Jurors saw a video of the chase recorded by the trooper's car camera. In his testimony, Trooper Todd Brooks estimated the truck was traveling up to 90 miles per hour - and 50 miles per hour in a 25 mph zone through Scranton.

Osage County Attorney Brandon Jones said he was pleased with the trial's outcome, despite the not-guilty verdicts on speeding charges.

"The trooper was more intent on getting the pursuit ended than he was in looking at the radar. I'm OK with (the verdicts)," Jones said.

Morgan's attorney, Billy Rork, told Judge Phillip Fromme that he would seek a new trial.

During testimony Monday, Morgan said she had traveled from Washington state to look at property she considered buying in Lebanon, Mo. She did not buy the property and, she said, she later was followed by people in several vehicles who tried to run her off the road and who shot at her. She reported that to police in Buffalo, Mo.

The next day in Kansas, Morgan said, she thought she was being followed and threatened again. She drove by someone who struck her vehicle with a sign. People then began throwing rocks at her truck, she said.

Morgan said she didn't stop for the Kansas trooper because she wasn't convinced he was a law enforcement officer. She said she stopped after her daughter called 911 on a cell phone and spoke to dispatchers. The daughter, Sabrina Morgan, 26, is not charged.

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