Area police are seeking the public’s assistance in locating a possible key witness to a two-vehicle accident in November 2016 when a man was killed by an alleged drunk driver south of Burlington.
David Murgia, a Des Moines County sheriff's deputy, said this week authorities were searching for an unidentified woman who may have evidence related to the accident on Summer Street that killed Raymond Manning Jr., 77.
"A female stopped by the sheriff's office (the day following the accident) and stated she had picked up a female who was walking on the gravel portion of Hartman Road near the airport shortly before the accident," Murgia said. "The female who was walking on the road told the driver that she and her boyfriend had just been in an argument and he had left her on the road.
"The female that was walking was located and identified," he said, adding the driver who went to the police station has not been identified. "We are asking for assistance in locating the female driver of the vehicle who had picked her up."
Murgia said investigators believe the woman was driving in the area shortly before the accident, but was not involved in the crash. Authorities believe she may have information about the accident. Murgia said the woman was not considered a suspect in the crash and was not facing criminal charges.
Manning, who was pronounced dead at the scene, was driving one of two vehicles involved in the crash that occurred in the late evening hours of Nov. 9, 2016, in the 3800 block of Summer Street, near the corner of Summer Street and Old Highway 61.
The driver of the second vehicle, Jason Twitchell, also of Burlington, who was 30 at the time of the accident, was seriously injured in the crash. He was flown by helicopter to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for treatment of life-threatening injuries.
Following a lengthy investigation by the Iowa State Patrol, Des Moines County Sheriff's Department and Burlington Police Department, Twitchell was charged in June with homicide by vehicle — operating under the influence, a class B felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison.
Prosecutors have said Twitchell was high on drugs and/or alcohol at the time of the crash.
Shortly after the accident, Twitchell tested positive for amphetamine and benzodiazapine at the hospital in Iowa City, court records state. Public records did not indicate if he also was above the legal limit for alcohol at the time of the accident.
Twitchell is scheduled to go to trial April 10 in Des Moines County District Court. However, his Burlington attorney Scott Schroeder asked the court this week to move the trial to May to allow time for authorities to try and locate the woman.
"During a (recent) deposition, a witness disclosed information not previously disclosed to law enforcement," Schroeder wrote in his motion asking for the continuance. "The information, if verified, would likely prove dispositive (resolve) of the entire case."
Schroeder said Justin Stonerook, the assistant Des Moines County attorney who is prosecuting Twitchell, did not oppose his request for a continuance.
According to Schroeder, Twitchell, who has waived his right to a speedy trial, is currently in prison at the Clarinda Correctional Facility on unrelated convictions.
A decision on Schroeder's request for a continuance may be decided by District Judge John Wright this week.
Following Schroeder's request for the continuance, Murgia asked for the public's assistance in locating the woman.
"We are asking for assistance in locating the female driver of the vehicle, who had picked the woman up," Murgia said.
He said officers do not have a description of the woman or the vehicle she was driving.
According to records unsealed in Des Moines County District Court at the time charges were filed against Twitchell last June, he was driving a 2004 GMC Sierra pick-up truck southbound on Summer Street shortly before 10 p.m. when he crossed the center line and collided with a Dodge Ram pick-up truck driven by Manning. The collision pushed Manning’s vehicle into a nearby ditch.
“During an interview of Mr. Twitchell on Nov. 28, he (told investigators) it was possible he had smoked methamphetamine on Nov. 8," according to court records. "A witness who was with Twitchell prior to the accident (told troopers Twitchell) had been sleeping off his high on Nov. 9.”
Twitchell was not arrested at the time of the accident because of the extent of his injuries, court records indicate.
Anyone with information pertaining to this case please contact Murgia at the Des Moines County Sheriff's Office or the Des Moines County Attorneys Office at 319-753-8209. Crimestoppers can be contacted at 319-753-6835.