Updated: 7:16 a.m. Wednesday, June 24, 2009 | Posted: 9:53 p.m. Tuesday, June 23, 2009

TV anchor faces suit in fatal crash

Mother of man killed blames Natasha Williams’ speed.

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TV anchor faces suit in fatal crash photo
Natasha Williams

By Tom Beyerlein

Staff Writer

WHIO-TV news anchor Natasha Williams is facing a wrongful death civil lawsuit filed by the mother of a Moraine man who was killed in March 2007 in Harrison Twp. after his car collided with Williams’ SUV.

According to a Montgomery County sheriff’s investigator’s report, Michael Hugee failed to yield the right of way at 8:54 p.m. Saturday, March 24, 2007, when he attempted to turn left from Valerie Arms Drive onto northbound Philadelphia Drive and was struck by Williams’ vehicle, which was southbound on Philadelphia.

Hugee, 23, was taken to Miami Valley Hospital, where he was pronounced dead from blunt force trauma to his chest.

Williams, 43, and her two children were unhurt. After an investigation that lasted more than seven months, the case was closed with no charges against Williams.

“Hopefully, as tragic as it is, the situation will resolve itself,” Williams said in an interview with the Dayton Daily News on Monday, June 22.

Williams is married to Joey Williams, president of Chase Bank and a Dayton city commissioner.

In her March 20, 2009, lawsuit, Hugee’s mother, Mona Dello-Stritto, blamed the crash on “Williams’ excessive speed and inattention,” and said, “had Williams been traveling the posted speed, she would have been able to avoid the collision.”

Late last week, Hugee’s insurance company, Financial Indemnity Co., a co-defendant in the civil lawsuit, said in legal papers that it shouldn’t be liable for monetary damages because Hugee’s actions caused or contributed to the injuries.

But the company said that if it is found liable, it should be able to recover from Williams any money it is required to pay, “for the reason that it was the negligence of defendant Natasha Williams that proximately caused the damages and injuries referred to in plaintiff’s complaint.”

The sheriff’s investigation found that the air bag control module in Williams’ SUV recorded she was driving 57 mph in a 40 mph zone two seconds before the accident, when she first applied the brakes. A momentum analysis by the sheriff’s office set Williams’ speed at 51 mph and Hugee’s at 15 mph. Williams was not issued a speeding ticket in the fatal crash. Williams told deputies her speed was about 40 mph.

Deputy Josh Evers’ report indicates Hugee may not have been wearing his contact lenses and may have been using his cell phone when the crash occurred. His autopsy found the presence of the sedative Midazolam and a blood-alcohol level of 0.04 percent, under the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

A test showed Williams had no alcohol in her bloodstream. She told officers she wasn’t taking any medication.

Deputies presented their investigation results to Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck’s office on July 20, 2007. Prosecutors asked for further investigation, including a review of Williams’ cell phone records.

When Evers asked Williams for the phone records, he wrote, “Williams said she is going to call her attorney because someone told her there would be no charges in this case and when asked who told her this, she refused to say.”

In Monday’s interview, Williams again declined to say who told her she would not face charges. “The fact that the young man had been drinking, was talking on his cell phone and he took my right-of-way, that’s where the information came from,” she said.

Sheriff Phil Plummer said his deputies typically don’t offer information about charges because the prosecutor’s office decides whether charges are filed.

Prosecutor’s spokesman Gregory Flannagan said: “That’s obviously not something we would’ve said, because that decision hadn’t been made yet.”

Evers got a subpoena for the phone records, which show Williams made a two-minute call to her husband’s cell phone, then called 911.

A three-prosecutor panel on Nov. 8, 2007, determined there was insufficient evidence to support a felony charge, according to Evers’ report. Evers took the case to Vandalia City Prosecutor Claudia Turrell, who told the Daily News that she declined to bring misdemeanor charges because Williams’ speed was not so excessive as to outweigh Hugee’s failure to yield.

Records from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles and area municipal courts show Williams has had 15 speeding violations since 1996, including one since the fatal accident. She also was cited, in 1999, for following too close. BMV records show she has had three accidents since 2001, including one since the fatality.

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