Man Accused in Deadly Erlanger Hit & Run Appears in Court
Witnesses say he was heavily drinking and then drove his vehicle from Newport toward Erlanger, driving erratically and prompting calls to 911, before ultimately striking and killing a woman on Crescent Springs Pike.
Lonnie Turner, 38, appeared in Kenton District Court on Wednesday facing charges of second degree manslaughter, being a persistent felony offender, and violating his parole.
According to a detective who testified before Judge Ken Easterling, Turner did not have a driver's license but drove a gold PT Cruiser with a female passenger from a night of partying in Newport. At the time of the collision with a female walking on the road, the pair thought they had struck a mailbox and drove on.
The next morning, they saw news reports that a body had been found along the road. Lauren Pettit, 28, had been walking home from her job at Convergys late that May 17 night after discovering that her car had a flat tire. Her body was found the next morning by a Duke Energy worker.
The female passenger went to police after seeing the news while Turner allegedly fled to Cincinnati.
An Erlanger Police detective said that 911 was called from Interstate 75 by a driver who witnessed Turner driving erratically and then by another driver who was allegedly cut off by the PT Cruiser after the car had exited at the Buttermilk Pike exit. That second caller was a healthy distance from Turner's vehicle when he or she, according to the detective, saw what was believed to be shoes thrown from the PT Cruiser.
The driver did not realize that a fatal collision had just been witnessed.
As members of Pettit's family sobbed quietly in the courtroom on Wednesday, Judge Easterling ordered the case to be handed to the Kenton County Grand Jury. Turner is being held on $100,000 cash bond.
His lengthy criminal record includes a theft of identity case, written about at The River City News in October 2012, in which Turner was convicted of stealing his own brother's identity in order to avoid being arrested, only to be told by a Covington Police officer that his brother was already in jail, too.
Pettit's sister wrote a heart-felt account of the family's effort to raise funds for Lauren's funeral, an effort that raised more than $12,000 in fifteen hours.
Story & photo by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News