Accused Hit-and-Run Driver Pleads Not Guilty

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A Fayetteville man accused of driving off after hitting a homeless man, who later died from his injuries, pleaded not guilty Monday (Aug. 5) to a felony charge of failure to stop after accident with injury or death.

In an arraignment in the Washington County Detention Center, Maurice Deshaun Evans was also given an Oct. 3 date to appear in the Washington County Circuit Court on the charge.

The Circuit Court issued a warrant for Evans’s last week, according to court documents.

Evans, 22, was initially arrested July 3 after investigators spent two days trying to find him in connection with a felony hit-and-run in which the victim, Gary Todd O’Neal, was hospitalized. He faced a charge of felony leaving the scene of an injury accident and was released from the Washington County Detention Center on July 6 on $10,000 bond, according to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

O’Neal died July 12 at 12:15 a.m. at Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Mo., according to a family member. O’Neal was taken by helicopter to the hospital July 1 after being struck by a car police say was driven by Evans.

O’Neal had brain and spinal injuries from the crash, according to police. He had a large wound on the back of his head after the hit-and-run collision.

O’Neal may be from Oklahoma, but has spent time in Missouri and Arkansas, said Sgt. Craig Stout with the Fayetteville Police Department. Authorities believe the man was homeless.

Police received a tip the day after the crash about a vehicle matching the description the department had sent out on the car. Officers responded to the location on West End Avenue and noticed damage to the front of the car, according to a preliminary report from the Washington County Detention Center. The Ford Taurus was registered to Evans.

Evans consented a search of his vehicle and gave the police an alibi for the time of the hit-and-run. Detectives were able to disprove the alibi and arrested Evans a day later, according to a preliminary report.

“Evans said he didn’t stop because he knew he would go to jail for killing a man,” said the reporting officer.

O’Neil was lying in the street when emergency crews arrived.

The department’s criminal investigation unit canvassed area neighborhoods looking for the driver of the car who hit the man

Little physical evidence was left at the site of the accident from the car, making it difficult for investigators to track down the suspect.

“After the accident happened we called out our accident reconstructionists and our criminal investigation unit,” said Stout. “We started doing a canvas of surrounding neighborhoods looking for the vehicle, checking a lot of the businesses that are around.”