Lawrence man charged in hit-and-run accident that killed bicyclist

Charges were filed Thursday against a Lawrence man accused in an Oct. 16 hit-and-run accident that resulted in the death of a bicyclist.

Joel Hernandez, 21, turned himself in at the Douglas County Jail this morning, said Charles Branson, Douglas County District Attorney. Police allege Hernandez was under the influence of alcohol when he hit 20-year-old Rachel Leek, who was riding a bike just south of 10th and Tennessee streets. Leek died later that day.

Hernandez is charged with leaving the scene of an accident involving the death of a person and failure to report an accident, both felonies; vehicular homicide, a misdemeanor; and improper passing, a traffic infraction.

Branson said the suspect turned himself in after a warrant was issued for his arrest.

The suspect was not arrested when he was located after the accident. Branson said it took more than a month to file charges in the case because his office was gathering information.

“We can’t just immediately jump to a conclusion,” he said.

Prosecutors didn’t charge Hernandez with any alcohol-related crimes, Branson said, because no breath test was given to the suspect.

Hernandez, a graduate of Lawrence High School, was being held in Douglas County Jail on $5,000 bond, pending a Dec. 2 hearing before District Judge Michael Malone.

Defense attorney Al Lopes said Hernandez pulled out of attending classes at Haskell Indian Nations University after realizing “he had some serious issues to deal with as a result of this” case.

According to prosecutors, Hernandez has no criminal history.