A 9-year-old boy was killed Sunday in a hit-and-run crash east of Hamilton, while the suspect, apprehended nearly six hours later, is being held on $500,000 bail.
The Ravalli County Attorney's Office alleges a van driven by Joseph John McNamara, 59, struck the boy at an "extremely high rate of speed" on Golf Course Road east of Hamilton around 1 p.m. on Sunday.
A man at the scene during the crash told authorities he saw McNamara get out of the van and approach the boy, as the boy's father also ran from their nearby home to help.
The boy's father handed McNamara his cell phone and told him to call 911, according to charging documents.
"Instead, (McNamara) stated he needed to move his vehicle, kept the father's phone, got in his van and drove away at a high rate of speed heading East," Ravalli Chief Deputy County Attorney Angela Wetzsteon wrote in charging documents. "He never returned to the crash scene."
At least one witness took photos of McNamara's van fleeing the area and another witness followed the van, finding it parked at the home of McNamara's girlfriend. The woman told law enforcement she and McNamara had gotten into an argument earlier that day near Rotary Park, and they had left separately. McNamara returned to the house later, she said, and asked for a ride. When she refused, he walked out, she told police.
After a five-and-a-half hour search, McNamara was apprehended at a home in Hamilton, according to charging documents. Two witnesses who had given McNamara a ride said he had told them varying stories about being held at gunpoint as he drove during the fatal hit-and-run. After his arrest, law enforcement said McNamara continued to tell a story of someone holding him at gunpoint in his vehicle, although no witnesses at the crash scene spoke of anyone other than McNamara being in the van.
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The Montana Highway Patrol said the boy was eastbound on a nonmotorized scooter when he was hit by an eastbound van. Investigators say the driver swerved to the left while braking and struck the boy with the right side of his vehicle near the center line of the road.
The van may have been traveling nearly twice the posted 35 miles-per-hour speed limit, crash scene investigators said in court records.
The boy died of his injuries at the hospital in Hamilton.
McNamara is charged with negligent homicide and failure to remain at the scene of an accident. If convicted on the homicide charge, he could be sentenced to as much as 20 years in state prison, and a year for the failure-to-remain charge.
Ravalli County Justice of the Peace Jennifer Ray set McNamara's bond at $500,000 at his initial appearance on Wednesday. He is scheduled to enter a plea later this month.
The boy's name has not been released.
This story contains reporting from the Associated Press.