Soldier's Failed Suicide Attempt Caused Deadly Highway Crash

By: Lindsey Rogers Email
By: Lindsey Rogers Email
Court documents state that a Fort Riley soldier wanted to commit suicide when he drove into oncoming traffic on Interstate 70, causing a fatal accident.

Gary Nelson

GEARY COUNTY, Kan. (WIBW) -- Court documents state that a Fort Riley soldier wanted to commit suicide when he drove into oncoming traffic on Interstate 70, causing a fatal accident.

Gary Nelson, 22, of Junction City, has pleaded no contest to Second Degree Murder and Reckless Driving in a plea deal with the state.

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 down an embankment, 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. Court documents indicate that Black suffered multiple blunt force trauma injuries "to the neck and chest, resulting in hemorrhages, fractures, tears, lacerations and ruptures, leading to his death."

Gary Nelson continued speeding up to 100 mph 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.

Officials with the Kansas Highway Patrol and Riley County Police Department confirmed that the RCPD received a call the night of the incident 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.

According to a factual basis of the case submitted by Geary County Attorney Steve Opat to the court, when Nelson was questioned by authorities after his capture, he told troopers that he entered I-70 near Exit 301 in Geary County "intending suicide." The court document goes on to state that "investigation of Nelson's background, including interviews with this chain of command, co-workers and wife, revealed that Nelson contemplated suicide to the extent of leaving funeral instructions and good-byes." Nelson also reportedly told troopers that his "idea was to run into a semi head-on, but (he) lost his nerve when one approached."

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.

According to his plea agreement, he faces anywhere from a minimum of 109 months (approximately 9 years) to a maximum of 493 months (approximately 41 years) for Second Degree Murder in Black's death and between 5-90 days in the Geary County Jail for the reckless driving charge.

Gary Nelson is scheduled to be sentenced on November 12, 2013 at 9:30 AM at the Geary County Courthouse.


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