ELKHART — Police arrested a man accused of fleeing from the scene of a fatal crash following an 18-month investigation.
Kyle Reames, 23, of Elkhart, was arrested Thursday, Feb. 20, on a charge of failing to return to the scene of a crash that resulted in death.
Reames' charge is a Class C felony, which carries a sentence of up to eight years in prison.
According to the initial crash report, emergency units responded shortly before 5 a.m. July 7, 2012, to C.R. 23 south of C.R. 14 to reports of a single-vehicle crash.
Police found a Jeep Wrangler in a ditch and a shirtless man, later identified as Jared Lay, lying in the same ditch about 50 feet south of where the vehicle was found.
Lay, 22, was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.
According to the probable cause affidavit for Reames' arrest, two witnesses heard the crash and saw the Lay on the ground and the Jeep.
The initial investigation suggested Lay was the sole occupant of the vehicle. However, upon further examination, detectives found the driver's side seatbelt was stretched and locked into position.
They also saw that Lay had no visible signs of trauma consistent with wearing a seat belt.
Officers found the Jeep was registered to Reames, executed a search warrant on the Jeep and made additional observations that excluded Lay as the driver.
Officers then spoke with Reames at this home, which was located about 3.5 miles from the crash scene. They found soil stains and what appeared to be blood stains on Reames' shorts.
Police asked Reames to pull the front of his shirt up and saw abrasions on his chest that seemed consistent with trauma from a front driver's side seat belt.
Reames agreed to speak with detectives but denied being involved in the crash. He gave inconsistent explanations of his injuries and appeared to be intoxicated.
Reames was taken to the Elkhart County Sheriff's Department, where he told police he had been drinking at a bar in Bristol with his friends, including Lay. Reames and five of his friends went to his house after leaving the bar.
According to the affidavit, Reames told police that, once in his house, Lay asked if he could borrow Reames' Jeep to buy cigarettes and that he gave Lay the keys.
A warrant for Reames' arrest was issued Jan. 29. Reames was bailed out of jail hours after he was arrested.
According to court files, Reames has been charged in the past with operating a vehicle while intoxicated and aiding in the unlawful possession of alcohol by a minor.
His next court hearing has been scheduled for March 3 in Elkhart Superior Court 2, according to jail records.