A Lawrence man who gave a detailed account to local law enforcement officers about the 1990 hit-and-run death of a Native American man testified at a court hearing Thursday that he gave the statement under duress and that he did not recall the events surrounding the accident.
During a preliminary hearing in Douglas County District Court, Donald J. Ray Jr., 21, Lawrence, said investigators pressured him to say he was riding in a vehicle driven by his friend Marvin Schaal, 19, Lawrence, that struck Christopher Bread late March 1 or early March 2, 1990. Bread died March 2 shortly after being struck.
After hearing Ray's account, officials arrested Schaal March 1 of this year and later charged him with a felony count of aggravated vehicular homicide. Schaal also was charged with a misdemeanor count of leaving the scene of an accident.
Ray testified during the preliminary Thursday that during a 13-hour interview, he was coerced into making a false statement about Bread's death. He said one of the investigators had threatened to choke him unless he gave them an account of the hit-and-run.
DOUGLAS COUNTY Assistant Dist. Atty. Rick Trapp submitted as evidence a 14-page report that Ray dictated to a sheriff's officer during the lengthy interview which began late Feb. 29 and ended at 10 a.m. March 1 about events leading to Bread's death, the accident and some events following the fatality.
During a court hearing last week, prosecutors and Schaal's attorney announced that Ray had recanted his story. Trapp on Thursday questioned Ray as a ``hostile witness,'' a legal term for a witness who displays hostility or prejudice against the attorney who issued a subpoena for his or her testimony. An attorney is permitted to question a hostile witness as if he or she had been called by the opposing party.
THROUGHOUT Thursday's hearing, Trapp asked Ray to confirm that various parts of the statements were true. Ray testified that some parts were false. And in response to other questions, he said he did not recall what happened.
The statement said Ray and Schaal went out together on Thursday, March 1, 1990, and obtained four 12-packs of beer from a friend. Schaal and Ray drove Schaal's early-1970s model Oldsmobile Cutlass to a Eudora mobile home park to see a woman Schaal wanted to date, the statement says.
Ray said in the statement that he and Schaal drank the 48 beers during about a four-hour period as they sat in the car and talking with the girl. Later that night, they drove back to Lawrence on Douglas County Road 442, also known as old Kansas Highway 10, and then on East 15th Street.
While on East 15th, they drove by the Outhouse, a local night spot that features live music.
"I HEARD a loud thud. I felt the car jerk and shake a little bit. The thud was too big to be an animal," Ray said in the statement.
Ray also had stated that Schaal was driving carelessly on the gravel road at speeds between 50 mph and 60 mph.
The two drove back to a residence in Lawrence, where they allegedly took a moped from a neighboring residence and went back to East 15th to find what they'd hit.
The men found what appeared to be the body of a Native American man, Ray had said in his written statement.
According to sheriff officers reports, Bread's body was discovered early March 2, 1990, in a ditch along East 15th, just east of Lawrence. The body, which was discovered by a motorist who called police, was nine-tenths of a mile west of the Outhouse.
Michael Jones, 25, Lawrence, testified that he was heading home from work at the East Hills Business Park between midnight March 1 and 1 a.m. March 2 on East 15th when he noticed two people standing along the road near a moped.
JONES TESTIFIED that he was being driven home by a fellow worker. The driver, Jones said, stopped to see whether the men were having any trouble. Jones said he talked to one of the men near the moped and that man said the two were star-gazing.
Jones testified that neither he nor the driver had seen Bread's body. In his statement, Ray said he and Schaal had talked to two men in a pickup truck they'd encountered after they'd returned to East 15th Street. Ray's account is similar to Jones' testimony.
Ray also said in the statement that he and Schaal returned to Lawrence after a short discussion about whether the man struck by the car was dead.
The next morning, Ray had said he noticed that Schaal's car had some dents on the fender and cracks in the passenger side of the windshield possibly damage caused by the accident.
Ray's mother, Marjorie Ray, testified that after her son was interviewed by investigators earlier this month, he told her that he and Schaal had been together the morning Bread was struck and killed. She said her son implied that Schaal was driving, had hit someone and that Ray "wasn't going to take the rap for it."
SHIRLEY GINGER Frazier, who identified herself as a friend of the family, testified that she also talked to Ray after he was interviewed by law enforcement officers. She said she asked Ray how he could stand living with the knowledge of Bread's death on his conscience.
Frazier testified: "He (Ray) said he just learned to live with it."
The preliminary hearing is set to continue at 9:30 a.m. Monday. Schaal, who was 17 at the time of the accident and is being tried as an adult, remained in Douglas County Jail this morning in lieu of $15,000 bond.