COVER: Family members and friends of the late Philip Duran established a temporary memorial in April on Kyle Parkway where the former U.S. Marine was struck and killed while jogging in April 2013. A jury this week acquitted a Kyle teen of failure to stop and render aid after striking Duran as he jogged. The second-degree felony could have carried a prison sentence of two to 10 years. PHOTO VIA FACEBOOK
COMPILED FROM STAFF AND MEDIA REPORTS
Following five hours of deliberations on Thursday, a Hays County jury acquitted 19-year-old Nathanael Eddleman of felony failure to stop and render aid after he fatally struck a nighttime jogger in Kyle more than two years ago.Philip Duran, a 37-year-old former U.S. Marine, died alone alongside Kyle Parkway near Kohler’s Crossing on the night of Friday, April 27, 2013. His body was found the next day by his brother, former Kyle City Council member Chad Benninghoff, on a route Duran frequently jogged after dark. A pathologist who conducted an autopsy testified that Duran died of a ruptured blood vessel in his right leg, an internal jury that may have taken as many as 10 minutes after the accident to kill him.
Eddleman, then a 17-year-old high school student, told police that he was distracted by his cell phone charger when he struck something that tore the headlight, sideview mirror and antenna from the passenger side of his Chevrolet Suburban. Thinking he struck a pole or signpost, he continued to his nearby destination, he later told police.
The not guilty verdict “essentially hold[s] that the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that … Mr. Eddleman knew, or should have known, that the collision had caused injury or death to a person,” Hays County District Attorney Wesley H. Mau said in a statement issued Thursday evening.
“While the verdict is disappointing to us and to Mr. Duran’s family, we know that the jurors considered the evidence carefully and performed their duties to the best of their abilities. This was a hard decision for the jury, and we appreciate their work,” Mau said.
Two of Eddleman’s friends testified for prosecutors that they were not in the vehicle when it struck Duran, but said Eddleman told them afterward he struck something, KEYE News reported. Later, when driving by the scene as Duran laid dead in tall grass, Eddleman did not stop when one of his passengers spotted the Suburban’s sideview mirror on the side of the road. Prosecutors suggested that Eddleman purposely kept his friends from getting a closer look because he knew he had struck something other than a pole.
Defense attorney Todd Nickle of Georgetown said nothing about his client’s bearing or behavior following the incident suggests he knew he had injured or killed someone, the Hays Free Press reported.
Under cross-examination, classmate Dennis Collins said Eddleman did not seem nervous or shaken by the incident and that he, indeed, told his friends that he had struck a pole, a story he repeated to police two days later when questioned at the high school. Nor was there any blood or tissue on the vehicle when Collins looked over the damaged vehicle the night Duran was killed.
Moreover, Eddleman made no attempt to hide his vehicle, even driving it to Hays High School the following Monday where it was spotted in the parking lot by an observant resident who reported it to police, Nickle said.
Duran’s mother, Rebecca Duran, said Thursday evening on social media that the verdict sends a “message to Hays County that it is okay to hit and kill a person as long as you say you didn’t know you hit a person.”
“My heart is broken. Eddleman’s mother stated on the stand how her life is forever changed. What kind of a statement could someone make in the same courtroom as the mother in which her son killed my son? Who’s life has been forever changed? She has her son, I will never see my son again,” Rebecca Duran said.
Mau said he hopes the circumstances of Duran’s death will make people think more carefully about the life-and-death consequences of their driving.
“If any good can come from the tragedy of Mr. Duran’s untimely and tragic death, it is only as an object lesson to others. It is our hope that this case will at least serve as a reminder to other people, young and old, that the decisions they make on the road can have permanent consequences to not only their own, but also the lives of many others with whom they share those roads,” the district attorney said.Email | Print