A man accused of hitting a cyclist in Ramona with his car and fleeing the scene, ultimately leaving the victim in a coma, pleaded not guilty to hit-and-run in court Thursday.
Chase Richard, 34, was arrested Tuesday in unincorporated Ramona, less than 10 miles away from where 53-year-old Michelle Scott was struck earlier this month.
Prosecutors claimed Richard was trying to leave town before he was arrested.
“The car engine was running at the time, and there was a suitcase as well as a large backpack that was in the defendant’s possession, and he was placed under arrest at that time,” said Deputy District Attorney Valerie Ryan.
Investigators said Michelle Scott was riding along on State Route 67, just north of Dye Road, when she was hit by a black Ford Edge SUV on Oct. 2 at around 6:15 a.m.
The vehicle reportedly traveled onto the highway shoulder, directly into Michelle Scott’s path, ejecting her from her bike and causing her to land on the roadway, investigators said. The reason the Edge drifted is still under investigation.
Michelle Scott suffered significant injuries and was airlifted to Palomar Hospital where she remains in a coma and on a ventilator. On Thursday, doctors told NBC 7 they don’t expect her to survive.
“At this time, she’s one point on the GCS the scale from being brain dead. She can't hear, the eyes and those functions – the voluntary functions of the brain are not working,” said Michelle Scott’s husband, Don Scott.
Michelle Scott’s bicycle remained stuck in the grille of the Edge for two miles, according to the California Highway Patrol.
A GoFundMe page was created to support Michelle Scott’s family.
Richard now faces one charge of hit-and-run causing permeant, serious injury and one charge of hit-and-run causing injury, which Ryan said was a “lesser included offense of count one.”
Ryan said there was also a special allegation of great bodily injury and brain injury.
The deputy district attorney said prosecutors will reassess charges if Michelle Scott’s condition worsens.
In court Thursday, prosecutors claimed Richard returned home after striking Michelle Scott and attempted to hide any evidence from his car. Prosecutors alleged he put cardboard boxes over damaged areas of the Edge – even spray painting part of the car and removing the front bumper, license plate, and part of the hood.
Richard lives about five miles from the site of the incident.
Richard’s bail was set at $1 million, and he is expected to return to court on Oct. 18.
If convicted on the current charge, Richard faces up to nine years in prison.