Location: Hutchinson

Guilty Plea in Hit-and-Run Death of Stafford Cyclist

In November 2009, Jim Searle was killed by a hit-and-run driver, while riding his bicycle near his home in Stafford, Kansas.

In January of 2012, the driver of the SUV that struck Mr. Searle, Lawrence Curtis of Stafford, pleaded guilty to a vehicular homicide. Mr. Curtis will be sentenced in Stafford County District Court on April 6th, and remains free on bond until that date.

Kansas statute 21-3405 defines vehicular homicide as “the unintentional killing of a human being committed by the operation of an automobile, airplane, motor boat or other motor vehicle in a manner which creates an unreasonable risk of injury to the person or property of another and which constitutes a material deviation from the standard of care which a reasonable person would observe under the same circumstances. Vehicular homicide is a class A person misdemeanor.”

For a Class A misdemeanor, the maximum sentence is one year confinement in the county jail.

A Facebook page, Justice 4 Jim Searle, has additional information:

“Justice for Jim” was started by a group of friends of the Jim Searle family in an effort to raise awareness and seek justice for the death of Jim, who was struck and killed while riding his bicycle just west of Stafford on November 4th, 2009. Lawrence Curtis, the driver of the vehicle, was eventually arrested on 10/07/2010 and charged with failure to stop at an injury accident which is a felony in the state of Kansas. Mr. Curtis’s attorney has requested and been granted two separate continuances in this case. The first continuance moved the original trial date of August 3rd, 2011 to November 29, 2011. The second continuance which occurred shortly before the November 29th trial date has pushed back the trial again with no new trial date having yet been set. It has now been over two years since Jim was killed and we believe that it is time that justice is finally served! Please click on the links and albums to learn more about our dear friend Jim and the details of this case.

The page has photos of Jim and links to more information about the case.

The report from the Kansas Highway Patrol (shown at the Justice 4 Jim page), contains the following from the responding officer:

The driver of unit 1 stopped after the crash and then left. According to the driver, he went home to call the authorities and report the accident. The driver then went back to the scene with his wife. The distance from the crash scene is right at 1 mile. Curtis advised that he got to the house and left unit 1 running, went in and told his wife to call the police which she did. After they had been advised both Curtis and his wife responded back to the scene.

The driver of unit 1 (Lawrence Curtis) said that he had been around 4 miles west of Stafford assisting with the harvest. Curtis said that he never saw the pedestrian, and that he thinks he just looked past the bicyclist. After the crash Curtis knew that he had struck somebody, he stopped, exited his vehicle and looked, then got back in his vehicle and went home to report the accident. Curtis had a cell phone, and there was a private residence on the south side of the road where the crash happened. When asked why he went home to report the accident and why he didn’t stay on scene and call it in he said he didn’t know. Curtis’s wife showed me her cell phone and it did indicate that they had called the Stafford Police Department at 1613 hours that day.

The KHP report did not list the collision as a “Hit and Run”, but Mr. Curtis was initially charged with “leaving the scene of a fatality”. The charges were later amended to vehicular homicide.

Court documents (page 1 and page 2) indicate that a “plea of nolo contendere” was entered on January 13th, 2012.

You can learn more about the 2009 collision here: Stafford, Kansas Cyclist Killed.

It has taken a distressingly long time, but Jim Searle’s killer has finally been brought to a measure of justice.

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About The Author

By Randy Rasa, editor/webmaster at Kansas Cyclist, the web’s premier Kansas cycling information site, featuring authoritative guides to Kansas cycling clubs, bike shops, organized bike rides, touring, trails, and much more. [learn more]

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