Driver in fiery double-fatal hit-and-run avoids prison

Crime

The driver of a BMW who police said ran away from a fiery three-vehicle crash that killed two people in February 2017 was sentenced Friday.

Justin T. Votaw, 32, of Fort Wayne, was handed three years of home detention followed by four years of probation by an Allen Superior Court judge. His license will also be suspended for two years.

Votaw had pleaded guilty in April to five counts of leaving the scene of an accident, and he faced more than 16 years in prison, according to Indiana Code sentencing guidelines.

Votaw was the driver of a 2002 BMW involved in a Feb. 20, 2017 crash with two other vehicles in the 1800 block of West Jefferson Boulevard, on the bridge near Swinney Park. The crash killed 23-year-old Jonny Tracy and 24-year-old Alisa Arseneau.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Votaw’s passenger in the BMW said he looked over after the crash to find the driver’s side door open and Votaw gone. He then looked over and saw that the Volkswagen that Tracy and Arseneau were in was fully engulfed in flames, the affidavit said.

The owner of the BMW, Ashley Burda, told investigators that Votaw was using her car and had the vehicle the night of the crash, the affidavit said.

Burda also said Votaw had told her that the driver of the Volkswagen caused the crash. Police noted in the affidavit that the Volkswagen and BMW were both westbound on West Jefferson when the Volkwagen began to lose control and went sideways into the curve and bumped the BMW.

Witnesses said the Volkswagen then crossed the center line and hit an oncoming Chevrolet Equinox and then hit the BMW, the affidavit said.

The driver of the Equinox was seriously hurt and a passenger suffered minor injuries.

During a March 3 interview with police, Votaw reportedly told police that he was driving the BMW but said he was not sure why he left the scene after the crash. He said he did not call 911 and the affidavit noted he never reported the crash.

Votaw said he “knows he was in the river due to his clothes being all wet,” and added he woke up at a friend’s home along Forest Avenue.

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