GEARY COUNTY, Kan. (WIBW) -- A Fort Riley soldier charged in a fatal accident on Interstate 70 could be looking for new legal representation.
Gary Nelson, 22, of Junction City, was scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Geary County District Court but the hearing was continued based on a request from the defense. Nelson is facing charges of Reckless Second-Degree Murder, Reckless Driving, Speeding, Fleeing and Eluding and Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road.
He was arrested following high speed chase on I-70 that started in Geary County and ended with him surrendering to authorities in Dickinson County.
On Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013, at approximately 10:30 p.m., a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper on routine patrol along I-70 East near Grandview Plaza was passed by Nelson’s Chrysler 200 going the wrong way. The trooper tried to stop the car and a pursuit began as Nelson continued driving into oncoming traffic.
About two miles into the chase near mile marker 297 (near the Junction City Walmart), an SUV driven by Steven Green, 53, of Manhattan, tried an evasive move to avoid a head-on collision with Nelson and Green’s 2002 GMC Envoy ended up leaving the roadway, rolling over multiple times and coming to a stop on its top on an access road south of the interstate.
Green and a female passenger, 51-year-old Evon Obannon of Manhattan, were injured and taken to Geary Community Hospital. Green was treated and released but Evon Obannon was transferred to Mercy Regional Health Center in Manhattan for a multitude of injuries, including damage to her neck, spine and knee and a shattered leg.
Obannon's husband, 53-year-old Jake Black of Manhattan, was taken to Geary Community Hospital where succumbed to his injuries. He was pronounced dead at 11:30 PM.
Gary Nelson continued speeding into oncoming traffic but other drivers managed to stop and get out of the way of the chase. Authorities shut down I-70 eastbound at the Abilene exit. As Nelson approached the Chapman exit, officials say he slowed down, drove into the median, stopped and surrendered to police without incident.
When asked about reports that Nelson was suicidal at the time of the fatal incident, Geary County Attorney Steve Opat said: "That's what's been related to me. I can't confirm it."
Troopers declined to comment about the alleged suicide attempt but officials with the Kansas Highway Patrol and Riley County Police Department confirmed that the RCPD received a call Wednesday night from an individual who said that Nelson had made comments to them about harming himself that made the caller concerned for his health. Riley County officers attempted to locate him and were unable to find him until they heard the I-70 chase playing out on the scanners.
One of the Riley County officers called Nelson on his cell phone during the pursuit with troopers and tried to get him to stop and pull over.
Fort Riley officials confirmed that Specialist Nelson works as a 92F Petroleum Supply Specialist with 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. He joined the army in November 2008.
Geary County Attorney Steve Opat says Nelson's family wanted time to think about hiring private counsel versus the Public Defender's Office, leading to the continuance.
Nelson is scheduled to appear in court again on July 15th.