Man faces murder charges in Kalamazoo Co. bicycle crash

Posted at 3:25 PM, Jun 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-09 22:16:47-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- The man accused of crashing a pick-up truck into a group of bicyclists in Cooper Township will face second-degree murder charges.

During a probable cause hearing Thursday, a judge authorized charges against 50-year-old Charles Edward Picket Jr. in connection with the Tuesday evening crash in the 5500 block of N. Westnedge Avenue.

Pickett faces five counts of second-degree murder and four counts of reckless driving resulting in serious injury.  He was arrested near the crash scene after leaving his vehicle, officials said.

kalamazoo bicycle crash victims

Five people were killed and four others were injured in the crash.

The five victims who were killed were identified Wednesday as Fred Anton (Tony) Nelson, 73, of Kalamazoo; Larry Paulik, 74, of Kalamazoo; Debbie Bradley, 53, of Augusta; Suzanne Sippel, 56, of Agusta; and Melissa Ann Fevig-Hughes, 42, of Augusta.

The four people who were injured were identified by officials as Paul Gobble, 47, of Richland;  Sheila Jeske, 53, of Richaland; Paul Runnels, 65, of Richland; and Jennifer Johnson, 40 of Kalamazoo.

Johnson and Jeske are currently hospitalized in fair condition.  The other two victims are in serious condition.

The bicyclists were part of a group that called themselves "The Chain Gang."  They were five miles into a weekly 30-mile ride when they were struck from behind.

Pickett will be formally arraigned at a later date.  Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting said during a Thursday press conference that Pickett was hospitalized and unable to appear in court.

Getting said that "the filing of formal charges" is only the first step in the legal process.  He adds that police are continuing to gather information on what led up to Tuesday evening's crash.

Whether or not Pickett was under the influence of any drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident is still unknown. Evidence taken at the scene is currently being tested by the Michigan State Police Crime Lab in Lansing.

Getting didn't discuss Pickett's prior criminal record, but records show Pickett had a prior DUI offence in Tennessee from 2011, which was later dismissed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report