Accident in Bollinger Co. kills one person, injures two

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

An alleged crime spree by three Poplar Bluff, Mo., men came to a fatal end this weekend when the vehicle they had stolen overturned in Bollinger County and killed one.

Justin Freeman, 24, of Poplar Bluff, was pronounced dead at 7:35 a.m. Sunday at the scene of the accident, three miles west of Arab, Mo., on Route P, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

He had been driving a stolen 2001 Dodge Stratus when the vehicle ran off the road and overturned, patrol trooper Richard Pipkin said.

Officials believe the accident was a combination of speed and a physical impairment of Freeman. Pipkin would not comment on what the impairment was, stating investigators were awaiting test results. The speed of the vehicle had not yet been determined.

Freeman and two passengers, who were not seriously injured, had been heading from Poplar Bluff to Puxico, Mo., to meet a friend of Freeman, Pipkin said.

In addition to stealing the Dodge, the three were suspected of breaking into at least three other vehicles in Poplar Bluff early Sunday and stealing stereos, CD players and cellular telephones.

Shortly before the accident, the trio was also accused of stealing gasoline from a station in Arab, Pipkin said.

When the westbound vehicle ran off the road and began overturning, Freeman was ejected from the car's sunroof. He was then fatally crushed by the vehicle as it rolled on top of him, according to Pipkin.

One of the passengers was partially ejected out the back window, but was not injured. The other passenger suffered a minor injury. Both refused medical treatment.

None of the three was wearing a seat belt, Pipkin said.

The passengers, Joshua L. Scowden, 19, and Francisco J. Hicks, 20, both of Poplar Bluff, were charged with tampering with a vehicle.

The pair also had warrants out for their arrest in other counties for similar offenses, and were being held by the Bollinger County Sheriff's Department, Pipkin said.

kmorrison@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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