FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A Fort Wayne man will get no more than three years in prison for his role in a vehicle chase and fatal crash that happened near the Main Branch of the Allen County Public Library in 2021.
That’s according to a plea deal 45-year-old Richard L. Schlatter made with Allen County prosecutors Friday where he admitted to amended felony counts of criminal recklessness and leaving the scene of an accident.
In return, prosecutors recommended any prison sentence an Allen Superior Court judge hands down to Schlatter in June be capped at three years.
Prosecutors originally charged Schlatter with more serious felonies last summer in connection to the crash that killed 38-year-old Robert Allen Koenig, Jr.
Just prior to the crash, which happened at about 4 p.m. on Jan. 17, 2021, Koening called emergency dispatchers and told them he had been stabbed in the arm and was heading to a hospital in a green Subaru.
That’s when the crash happened, and several witnesses would later tell Fort Wayne police Schlatter drove a vehicle that ran the Subaru off the road.
When emergency crews arrived in the 300 block of West Washington Boulevard, they found the Subaru’s passenger side wrapped around the tree with two men pinned inside, court documents said.
Koenig, in the passenger seat, was pronounced dead at the scene. Another man, the driver, suffered a broken neck, a broken back and several broken ribs and was treated at a local hospital.
While in the ICU at the hospital, that man, identified as Albert “Rich” Eccard, spoke with detectives.
Eccard said in court documents Schlatter was jealous of his relationship with his mother and also angry over the Subaru, which Schlatter’s mother sold to Eccard. Eccard and Koenig went to a home to pick up the Subaru and that Schlatter was there.
At some point, Schlatter and Koenig got into a physical altercation. Schlatter stabbed Koenig, Eccard said in court documents. Koenig jumped into the Subaru with Eccard and the two sped to the closest hospital, which was St. Joseph’s downtown at the time, court documents said.
While on their way, a white Astro van with the words “Mobile Mechanic” printed on it – the name of Schlatter’s business – began to give chase, Eccard and multiple witnesses later told police. Both vehicles sped down West Washington Boulevard and at times drove up on sidewalks, according to court documents.
Eccard said Schlatter intentionally rammed the Subaru, sending it off the road and into the tree, according to court documents. Surveillance footage from the library showed the van making contact with the Subaru from behind, sending into the tree, according to court documents.
When interviewed by detectives, Schlatter told them he was the only one who drove his “Mobile Mechanic” van and that it was the only van in his fleet. He claimed he was not in the area of the crash, but instead was elsewhere doing work for clients.
At first, he said he was never on West Washington Boulevard and never saw a green Subaru driven by Eccard. When asked about the Subaru, Schlatter said it was a “sore subject,” according to court documents. He claimed it was rightfully his, court documents said.
When police presented Schlatter with evidence that he had been in the area, he changed his story somewhat. He claimed in court documents he may have seen the Subaru, randomly, but he did not know if Eccard was driving.
He then said any damage to his van was probably caused by him pushing another car.
“I need a lawyer,” Schlatter said in court documents.
When investigators were able to look at Schlatter’s van, they found green paint markings on the passenger side and also a green mark across the front left side of the van’s bumper, court documents said. Paint chips were taken and compared to pain from the Subaru, and an Indiana State Police lab determined both sets of chips could’ve come from the same vehicle.
A screw that could’ve come from the license plate area of the Subaru was also found on Schlatter’s van.
Koenig’s death was due to multiple blunt force injuries and his manner of death was ruled an accident, the coroner said in a statement on April 16, 2021.
In the months after the crash, Schlatter was arrested multiple times for invasion of privacy, public indecency and battery and served some time in Allen County Jail.
As part of his plea agreement, Schlatter will have his license suspended for 8 1/2 years, according to court documents. The court could also impose fines and restitution in any amount the judge deems appropriate, according to court documents.
He’s scheduled to be sentenced June 23.