Prosecutors await test results in Port Angeles pedestrian death

PORT ANGELES — The Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is awaiting DNA test results on a trail of blood drops leading to the body of a person killed when a car hit him June 6 before making a charging decision in the case, said Michele Devlin, chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney.

The findings will help authorities decide if driver JohnPeter “JP” Kil Hyun Smithson, 20, of Port Angeles, should be charged with felony hit-and-run in connection with the death of Robert E. Simmons, 50, on a night-shrouded city street, Devlin said last week.

Simmons was found at 10:50 p.m. June 6 as he lay injured and barely conscious in in the 2000 block of the eastbound lane of 18th Street near the Clallam County Public Utility District building, according to a Port Angeles Police Department report.

Fire department medics pronounced the 14-year Port Angeles resident dead 20 minutes later, at 11:10 p.m.

He was wearing a burgundy shirt, navy-blue pants and black tennis shoes, according to a police report.

He died of blunt force trauma to the head and extremities, including a broken left thighbone, according to a Sept. 13 probable-cause recommendation to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office that Smithson should be charged with felony hit-and-run in Simmons’ death.

Simmons died about a half-mile from where he lived at Serenity House of Clallam County, a shelter and services-referral center for homeless people.

Devlin said the State Patrol Crime Laboratory could finish testing the blood residue by mid- to late January.

“I want everything in front of me before I make the decision,” she said.

Port Angeles lawyer Karen Unger represents Smithson.

“Until something else happens, there is no case,” Unger said Tuesday.

“They decided in September that they did not have any evidence to prove anything, so the case was never filed.”

Smithson told police he was the driver in the hit-and-run but thought he was hitting debris, not a person, according to a police report.

He was driving a 1995, four-door white Geo Prizm his parents had purchased the same day Smithson died.

The next morning, Smithson’s parents found a note from him telling them, “I got my first ding in the car,” according to a police report.

His mother “said he told her he was driving, it was dark, late at night, and all of a sudden there was something in the road,” according to Detective Erik Smith’s probable cause statement.

“He thought it was debris of some kind.

“He said he swerved really hard.

“He said he just caught it with the bumper and he kept going,” according to the statement.

“JP said that whatever it was just barely ‘caught it’ and that he did not feel it.

“He drove home following the impact.”

Cherie Smith of Port Angeles identified herself to police as a friend of Simmons’ who contacted police after hearing about a man being hit by a car on West 18th Street, according to a police report by Detective Sgt. Tyler Peninger.

“Cherie said she befriended Robert Simmons and would buy him clothing, make him take showers and let him spend time at her residence,” Peninger said in the report.

“She said Simmons was addicted to alcohol.

“She indicated several Hurricane beer cans in her back yard and said that he would spend time almost every day at her house.”

She said he was at her house located in the 600 block of South Laurel the night he died, leaving at about 8:20 p.m.

“She said that he was ‘pretty wasted,’” according to the report.

“She said he had been despondent in the past due to his family having ‘forsaken’ him.

“She said he was ‘outgoing’ and that he ‘loved life.’”

If Smithson is charged, it will be under a felony hit-and-run statute that requires the driver of a vehicle involved in the accidental injury or death of a person, or involved in striking the body of a dead person, to immediately stop.

The person must provide identification and proof of insurance to any person struck or injured during the incident or an person “attending” the incident, and must assist the injured person, according to the statute.

“According to the pathological findings, Robert Simmons’ death is attributed to blunt force trauma of the head (subdural hematoma, subarachnoid hemorrhage) and extremities which include the fracture dislocation of the left femur,” the probable cause statement aid.

“Due to Simmons’ size (approximately 6-feet-tall and 180 pounds) and the damage caused to the vehicle, there is probable cause to believe that JP Smithson knew or should have known that he hit something with the compact Geo Prizm that was not simply debris in the road on 6/06/2016,” according to the statement.

“He did not remain at the scene nor fulfill any of the requirements as stipulated by law.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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