On Sunday night, 39-year-old Ryan Peterson pulled into his Salem, Wisconsin, home with major damage to his vehicle. He told his wife, Trisha, he’d hit a deer on his way home.
According to reports, however, he never actually stopped his vehicle to check what he hit hard enough to crack his windshield.
Nonetheless, both Peterson and his wife decided to move the damaged Volvo into their garage and leave another car, an Acura, out in their driveway. Per the Kenosha News, Trisha later explained she helped switch the cars so their children wouldn’t see the wrecked vehicle.
The next day, Trisha went to work, where she’s an instructional aide at Central High School. She heard the news that a local cyclist had been killed in a hit-and-run after reading a press release, according to The Journal Times.
By 2:20 p.m., per the Kenosha News, she contacted the high school’s deputy to inform him what her husband told her: that he hit a deer on his way home — right around where the cyclist was killed — but did not stop.
Shortly after Trisha’s talk, another deputy quickly scheduled to meet with Peterson to discuss what his wife said.
The Kenosha News reported Peterson then admitted he’d been drinking the day of the accident, specifically, three vodka drinks and two beers, “however, he stated that he believed he was sober at the time of the crash.”
From there, an investigation led to a link between Peterson’s crash and the cyclist’s death, and Peterson turned himself in that afternoon.
On Tuesday, the 39-year-old man appeared in court for the first time after officially being charged with hit-and-run resulting in death and homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle.
According to Assistant District Attorney Andrew Burgoyne, an accident investigator believes Peterson hit the cyclist while he was riding on the gravel shoulder of a highway, approximately four to five feet away from the fog line.
Peterson allegedly hit the cyclist from behind. Burgoyne said the accident investigator “did not locate any tire marks on the roadway or gravel shoulder indicating any evasive action taken by the motor vehicle driver.”
The man Peterson is charged with hitting was 29-year-old Jackie Hutcheson Jr., who was riding his bike home from a family get-together at his sister’s house.
When Hutcheson’s mother didn’t hear from her son, she retraced the route her son would have taken home. It was then she came across her son, dead on the street, as authorities were investigating the scene.
After Peterson’s initial hearing in court, Hutcheson’s family was reportedly overcome with emotion, per the Kenosha News. His mother, Delise Hutcheson, wept while she said:
“That was my baby boy. He took him away from me, I’ll never be able to see him again.”
And his father, Jackie Hutcheson Sr., echoed her pain, saying:
“One day we’re going to have to forgive this man for taking our son away, because that’s the Christian thing to do. But today we have hate in our hearts.”
Because Peterson fled the scene, prosecutors said they’d never know if he was actually drunk or not. However, Court Commissioner David Berman said that if Peterson is, in fact, convicted, “there is a great likelihood that he is going to spend a significant time in prison.”
His bond has been set at $15,000; it’s unclear when he will appear in court next.