Witness says he heard deadly hit-and-run crash

Posted at 11:33 AM, Feb 11, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-12 00:00:41-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - The hit-and-run trial of Elias Webb began Monday afternoon after a jury was seated.

The jury is made up of 14 people - 10 women and four men, according to CBS 6 reporter Shelby Brown.

Webb, 31, is accused of leaving the scene of a deadly accident last summer on River Road in Richmond.

Lanie Kruszewski, 24, was struck and killed on July 29, 2012 while riding her bike on River Road near the Richmond-Henrico County line.

Webb came forward days after the accident telling police he thought he had hit a deer.

As proceeding began, prosecutors called about a half dozen witnesses, including two brothers who detailed their experience on the road that night with Eli Webb.

The two brothers testified they were first to the scene and called 911. They tried to help Lanie Kruszewski but could tell within seconds that she had already passed away. When they tried to roll her body over and check her pulse, they couldn't find one.

The two brothers testified that Webb sped past them and cut them off speeding up River Road.

However, the defense team told the jury that Webb, who uses that road frequently, had never seen a bicyclist there at night. His attorney mentioned Webb had often seen deer crossing in that area.

Attorney Craig Cooley told the jury Webb had been on a date two to three hours earlier and had five sips of beer at his date’s home before pouring out the rest of the beer.

Cooley also told the jury Webb had about a glass and a half of wine at a fondue restaurant in the West End after that and ate such a "huge" meal that there was no way he was impaired.

Prosecutors, who told the jury Webb was too little too late in turning himself in a few days later, said Webb should have stopped to check on what he hit, to render aid and to report the crash.

His defense is he thought he hit a deer that night.

Brett Beatty, a key witness for the prosecution, testified he was driving on River Road that night and passed Lanie riding on her bike moments before Eli Webb did.

Beatty testified Kruszewski’s bike was well lit from the front and the back. He also told the jury he heard the crash, but didn’t see it.

He says when he heard the loud sound of metal and glass he feared the worst. He explained that when he looked in his rear view mirror he could see a car swerving across the center line and back into its lane.

Down the street a little ways, Beatty said he could see the SUV with a smashed windshield and a busted passenger side headlight.

He thought he should try to get some more information, so he drove slowly to try and check things out.

That’s when Beatty said Webb took a quick left down a side street and when he tried to double back to follow Webb, Beatty lost sight of him and then he went back to the accident scene.

Beatty and other witnesses who stopped to help the biker that night say they never saw Webb or his SUV come back to the scene.

Cooley told the jury that his client had no idea he hit a person until the next day when he read a news article about a hit and run on the internet.

The defense claims Webb thought he had been on Cary Street that night, so when he first heard about the accident he didn’t think it was involving him.

According to Cooley, the next day when Webb drove his brother’s car to take his grandmother to the train station, he saw flares on the road near the area that he thought he hit a deer. That’s when he realized he was involved.

The defense says Webb’s grandmother lives at the top of the road, not far from the accident scene. Once he realized that a person was hit, Cooley says Webb called his family and then got in contact with his lawyer.

Kruszewski's boyfriend was among the witnesses during day one of Webb’s trial. He testified that her bike was always well-lit because he was the one who installed the lights on her bike.

Webb’s trial continues Tuesday. If convicted, he could face up to ten years in prison.

Stay with CBS 6 News and for the latest developments from the Elias Webb trial. 

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