Archive for Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Suspect charged in fatal hit-run

April 12, 2005


At the time of her death, Jodie Hatzenbihler was up for the "new nurse of the year" award at University of Kansas Hospital.

"She was bright and brilliant. She was one of the best we had ever had," said Beth Clark, the nurse manager at the Kansas City, Kan., hospital.

Hatzenbihler, a 25-year-old Olathe resident, was killed early Saturday by a hit-and-run driver as she walked across West Sixth Street. Prosecutors say the driver was under the influence of alcohol.

Hatzenbihler had been at Cadillac Ranch, 2515 W. Sixth St., and was walking across the street with a group of friends. It was nearly the exact same place and manner in which a Baker University student was struck and critically injured Nov. 19.

Visitors to Cadillac Ranch often use an apartment-complex parking lot across Sixth Street as overflow parking. The closest crosswalk is a block away.

In a hearing Monday in Douglas County District Court, prosecutors charged Adan S. Cruz, 23, Lawrence, with involuntary manslaughter, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and leaving the scene of an injury accident. Police said Cruz was the driver of the 1996 Ford Probe that struck and killed Hatzenbihler.

Cruz, who spoke through a Spanish-language interpreter, appeared before Judge Pro Tem Peggy Kittel by closed-circuit television from the Douglas County Jail. Kittel appointed a Spanish-speaking attorney and set Cruz' bond at $75,000.

The wreck happened shortly before 2 a.m. Saturday. Hatzenbihler's supervisor said she had been out with a group of friends from the hospital.

Sgt. Dan Ward, a Lawrence Police spokesman, said Hatzenbihler had parked across the street and was returning to her car. She was the last one in the street as the group crossed, Ward said.

Ward said police found Cruz at his home in the 500 block of Frontier Road after several witnesses gave a description of the car and officers searched the area. He was arrested after an interview.

Police are still waiting for lab results from both Cruz and Hatzenbihler and are looking into unanswered questions, including whether Cruz was speeding.

"We have quite a few witnesses we need to re-interview," Ward said.

Cruz told Kittel he had lived in Lawrence about a year and previously lived in Mexico.

Hatzenbihler worked at the hospital for about a year after graduating from nursing school in Oregon. Police had previously released her name as Jodi Hudson-Bihler.

A couple of weeks ago, co-worker Rachel Pepper wrote a letter nominating Hatzenbihler for new nurse of the year, citing her "unbelievable work ethic and deep care for patients."

"She was beautifully spirited, intelligent and humorous," Pepper said.

On Nov. 19, Baker University student Blake Pearson, 23, of Valley Center, was critically injured and flown to University of Kansas Hospital in a similar wreck that also happened about 2 a.m.

The next day, Nov. 20, Matt Thompson, 23, was killed in the same block of Sixth Street when his motorcycle was struck by a pickup truck.

"We look at all the accidents that occur within the city and see if there's things we need to respond to appropriately," Assistant City Manager David Corliss said. "I'm sure that (Saturday's accident) will be examined. Whether or not there's a good engineering or road-improvement solution to the safety issues is not known."

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