No charges for man who killed woman, said he hit a deer

KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) – An elderly Kentwood man who struck a woman with his car, killing her, then called 911 to report he struck a deer will not face criminal charges.

Page Stokes, 32, was run over on 32nd Street west of Breton Road in Kentwood around 9:30 p.m. on September 23, 2020. The certified nurse aide and mother of two had just walked out of her apartment next door and was heading to a store across the street. When she did not return, her family started looking for her.

But Stokes’ body was not discovered amid the darkness in a 32nd Street front yard until a passer-by noticed it around 7:30 a.m. the next day.

The front yard where Page Stokes’ body lay unknown for hours. (To file)

Stokes’ mother, Pam Strickland, contacted Target 8 because she is not happy with the situation.

“I can’t get her back, but I deserve to know what happened to my daughter,” Strickland told Target 8. “She was someone. She was my daughter. She was loved. She is loved. “We miss her. She was a beautiful spirit. A fun-loving spirit. She had the biggest heart.”

THE POLICE FINDS A DRIVER, A CAR, A DEAD DEER

According to the report filed by Kentwood Police, as officers diverted traffic around the crash scene on the morning of September 24, one of them noticed a passing vehicle with damage to the front passenger side. Police noted the registration number and located the vehicle to an 82-year-old man who lives within 5 miles of where Stokes died.

Target 8 does not identify the man as he has not been criminally charged.

When police knocked on the man’s door, his wife told them her husband had hit a deer the night before and was in an auto repair shop.

It was there that police found the man, his damaged car and a dead deer in the trunk.

A case photo shows the dead deer in the man’s trunk.

Police then discovered that the old man had called 911 at 9:36 p.m. the night before the collision.

“I hit a deer. (He) jumped in front of my car, ”the man told the dispatcher in a 911 call obtained by Target 8 through the Freedom of Information Act.

“I’m near 32nd Street… between Breton and Kalamazoo,” he said, adding that he had gone to a friend’s house to use his phone.

When the dispatcher told him police weren’t responding to collisions with deer, the man, who had an Eastern European accent, shared what he planned to do next.

“I’m going to go back there and then move it out of the way … because I left it there, you know,” he said, noting that there was still “meat” from the deer. on his vehicle.

Police noted in their report that the driver enlisted the help of a friend to pick up the deer because he “didn’t want it to be wasted.”

“He said they had called several shelters to see if any of them would take the deer, but no one wanted them,” an officer wrote in the report. “He said … since no one wanted the deer he was just going to put it back in place, (but) as he approached he saw all the emergency vehicles and thought there had been an accident (so ) he just went to the (repair shop), dropped the car off and told them about the deer in the trunk.

The officer then noted that the deer did not appear large enough to cause the damage to the vehicle, including a creased front bumper on the passenger side and a partially shattered windshield.

“The deer was very small, 46 pounds, and just had blood dripping from its nose and ears. He was already swollen and smelled bad, so (he had been) dead for a few days, ”the report read. “No way that little deer did so much damage to the car and there were bits of flesh in the car and the deer wasn’t opened at all.” (The driver) didn’t have an answer to that, he just thought there was a deer, that’s what he hit.

Additionally, police noted that there was no fur stuck to the man’s car, which is often the case after collisions with deer.

Police said in their report that the driver had just left a deck of cards at a friend’s house where he had drunk an alcoholic drink. The man and his friends told police he was not intoxicated at the time of the crash.

He has no driving record, although the state has since suspended his license indefinitely.

DRIVER SAID HE NEVER SEEN STOKES

Although no one reported witnessing the collision with Stokes, Kentwood Police said in their report that “Ms. Stokes was crossing 32nd place from Pheasant Ridge… and was struck by a 2012 Lincoln MKZ 4dr driven by (the 82-year-old man) and killed. Ms Stokes was walking through the middle of the block wearing dark clothing at the time of the crash.

The officer reported that the driver said he did not see anyone at the time of the crash, although DNA tests proved that the bodily material on the man’s vehicle was that of Stokes.

The man told police he found the deer dead near where he thought he hit it, which he reported as 32nd Street between Breton and Kalamazoo avenues.

Stokes’ body was discovered just west of Breton.

“The driver of the car categorically said he hit a deer and saw no one on the ground,” the officer wrote.

“DNA has proven that (the driver’s car) did in fact hit Ms. Stokes. Transmission of the report to the prosecutor’s office for examination and possible charges, ”the officer wrote in conclusion.

ATTORNEY: THE CONDUCTOR IS NOT A “CRIMINAL MASTERMIND”

However, after reviewing and discussing the report at length, Kent County District Attorney Chris Becker said he concluded he could not lay criminal charges.

“We have to show that he left the scene knowing, or at least having a pretty good idea, that he hit a person, not a deer,” Becker said in an interview with Target 8. “Unfortunately, all the evidence shows that he really really believed he had hit a deer. When you look at what he did, the people he spoke to afterwards, he called 911… and then he went until you pick up a deer and put it in your trunk. It’s a little too strange to be almost true, but apparently it’s true.

Becker noted that public works workers told police that two deer carcasses had been reported in the vicinity and within the general timeframe.

“There were actually two deer that were struck in that area. (Public Works) found one, but they couldn’t find the other. That’s a plausible explanation when you look at all the facts… ”said Becker. “Unless he’s some kind of criminal mastermind, and he made that up.” But he’s a man over 80, so nothing in his file makes us think he’s some kind of criminal mastermind who thinks so fast and reacts like he did.

Becker admitted that the driver might know what he had done.

“I’ve been in this job long enough (to know) that anything is possible. But we can’t just (load) on the possible. We have to prove things… and it’s hard to show he committed a crime when you have all this evidence that he thinks he hit a deer, ”he said.

When Target 8 visited the driver’s home to ask for comment, his wife declined on his behalf. A message left at the driver’s attorney’s office was not returned.

THE STOKES FAMILY: “HOW DID IT HAPPEN? “

Stokes’ family are not convinced by the story of the elderly driver.

“I need (Page) ‘s story to be heard. He didn’t need to be swept under the rug, which happened to him, ”said Stokes mother Pam Strickland. “And that’s how I felt, (like) it was swept under the rug. Why did this happen? How did it happen?”

Strickland thinks she hasn’t heard the real story yet.

“Page was a loving girl,” she said. “She loved life. She loved her children. She loved her nieces and nephews. There was nothing she wouldn’t do. She would help anyone she could.

The Stokes have retained a lawyer and are considering a wrongful death lawsuit.

“My aunt was nice,” Tia Young said while listening to a music video of Stokes singing to one of her two young sons. “She wouldn’t do anyone like that… we really miss her.” We haven’t heard his voice for a minute. It hurts a bit to hear her sing.

Strickland noted that her daughter would be happy to know that her mother is fighting for justice on her behalf:

“Like I said, (Page) would fight for us. She would fight for me. She wouldn’t rest until she understood all of this.

An undated courtesy photo of Page Stokes.

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