Thurston County Sheriff’s Office detectives believe they have located the vehicle that struck Lee Smith as he rode his bicycle home from work Feb. 17 on Johnson Point Road.
The alleged driver in the hit and run has also been identified, but no arrests have been made.
Lt. Cliff Ziesemer said that the Sheriff’s Office received a tip Wednesday night from a Shelton Police Department reserve officer who overheard a conversation at a bar.
The man said he heard another man talking to the bartender about recently hitting a deer, Ziesemer said. He told the detectives that he didn’t believe the man’s story, and recalled a story he had seen in The Olympian about an unsolved hit-and-run case.
Detective Jamie Gallagher followed up on the tip Thursday morning and learned the suspect’s name. She also learned that the man drove a Kia Optima — the kind of car that struck Smith. The make and model of the car were determined thanks to a side mirror left at the scene of the crash.
“She went in to talk to the bartender and eventually found the car,” Ziesemer said. “Then she learned that the car had recently been repaired.”
The car was found at a home on Johnson Point Road, and the suspect’s roommates told detectives that the man came home the evening of Feb. 17 with a damaged car, Ziesemer said. He claimed to have hit a trash can.
The roommates told detectives that the man had taken the car to a bodyshop for repairs. Ziesemer said detectives plan to talk to the business owner about the damage the car had in order to establish probable cause for an arrest.
“We want to make sure we get everything wrapped up before we make an arrest,” Ziesemer said.
The car is being held as evidence.
The car’s owner was already on Gallagher’s list of suspects before the tip, Ziesemer said. When detectives identified the make and model of the car, they searched the state Department of Licensing database for people who own Kia Optimas locally.
“Detective Gallagher was already looking at this guy,” Ziesemer said. “Not only does he own that kind of car, but he has a lot of traffic accidents.”
The force of the collision flung Lee Smith from his bicycle into the woods, and he suffered 12 broken bones: broken ribs, a broken nose, a broken leg and broken vertebrae. He spent five days in the hospital and is recovering at home.
The crash also left Smith unconscious.
“All I remember is hearing the sound of crumpling metal, and I was out,” Smith said.
The driver fled, and Smith woke up to a stranger standing over him. The man covered Smith with a blanket and stayed with him until medics arrived.
After the incident, Smith wondered why the driver didn’t stop to make sure he was OK.
“They just left me to die,” Smith said. “They had to know they hit me. They hit me so hard they left car parts at the scene. So why didn’t they stop?”