Driver in deadly bicyclist crash in Michigan faces 5 murder charges

Charles Pickett Jr. faces five counts of second-degree murder

An undated photo of Charles Pickett Jr. courtesy his Facebook page.

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) —  A Battle Creek man accused of hitting nine bicyclists, killing five riders faces five counts of second-degree murder.

RELATED: Truck slams into Michigan bicyclists, killing 5; 1 critical

Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting filed the charges against Charles Pickett Jr. Thursday.

Authorities said a blue Chevrolet pickup truck hit the cyclists from behind around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday near Markin Glen Park in the 5500 block of N. Westnedge Avenue in Cooper Township, north of Kalamazoo. Five people — Debbie Bradley, Melissa Fevig-Hughes, Tony Nelson, Larry Paulik and Suzanne Sippel — were killed

Pickett, 50, also faces four counts of reckless driving causing serious impairment for seriously injuring four other cyclists.

On Thursday, Bronson Methodist Hopsital said Paul Lewis Runnels remained in serious condition while Sheila Diane Jeske was upgraded to fair condition. Borgess Medical Center told 24 Hour News 8 that Jennifer Lynn Johnson remained in fair condition and Paul Douglas Gobble in serious condition.

Pickett was arrested in Rhea County, Tennessee, for driving under the influence in Feb. 2011, according to the Rhea County Sheriff’s Department. Court records show he was charged, but the DUI charge was later dismissed in Aug. 2011.

Kalamzoo Cycling Victims, Debbie Bradley, Melissa Fevig-Hughes, Tony Nelson, Larry Paulik, Suzanne Sippel
Top, left to right: Debbie Bradley and Melissa Fevig-Hughes. Bottom, left to right: Tony Nelson, Larry Paulik and Suzanne Sippel. (Undated courtesy photos)

More than 500 bicyclists gathered in Kalamazoo Wednesday for Ride of Silence to memorialize the victims.

St. Thomas More will hold a community prayer service 7 p.m. Thursday at the church, located at 421 Monroe St. near Western Michigan University campus. That service is open to everyone of all faiths. It will also be aired on WXSP and online on woodtv.com.

The Kalamazoo Strong Organization has set up a fund for the victims of the crash and their families. You can donate at the organization’s website.

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