Brother of fatal stabbing victim charged with vehicular assault

Friday, December 14, 2012

Lauren Timpe had just been ejected, somehow, from the BMW's passenger-side window. Her face was so slashed it would require more than 150 stitches to sew it back together.

Despite her condition, Timpe recalls exactly what Timothy Conrad told a 911 dispatcher in his cellphone call for help.

"The driver, she's in serious condition," was what Conrad said, according to Timpe.

Except, Timpe said, the driver was not a she. Despite what media and law enforcement agencies would report later that Dec. 8 it wasn't the other male in the car, James Flesher, either.

It was Conrad, Timpe said. He was the one driving the 1994 BMW early Saturday morning when it veered off the roadway, overturned and smashed into a tree.

"I have a very clear memory who was driving that night and it wasn't Jimmy," she said of Flesher. "I am 100 percent sure. Even when I told the cops that, they said I was wrong because they found Timmy in the back seat."

The Missouri State Highway Patrol, which initially listed Flesher as the driver in its reports, on Thursday said further investigation led them to agree that Conrad was driving, though they declined to elaborate. Three charges of vehicular assault have been filed against Conrad, which apply, the patrol said, because he was driving under the influence when an accident that caused injuries to others took place.

Conrad and Flesher mainly had scrapes and cuts. Timpe's injuries were serious, though she was home from the hospital by Thursday, a few days after the crash.

Most severely injured was the fourth person in the car, Kaylie Vantroba, 21, who was airlifted to a hospital in St. Louis, where she remained in serious condition late Thursday. Vantroba's mother did not return phone calls seeking comment Thursday.

Conrad could not be reached for comment, either, though the patrol said he was arrested at 3 p.m. Wednesday. The patrol said Conrad was on a 12-hour hold and he was no longer at the Cape Girardeau County Jail on Thursday afternoon. Calls to Conrad's mother went unreturned as well.

The other person in the BMW was Timothy Conrad's best friend before the crash. But James Flesher on Thursday said that no longer is the case.

Conrad has insisted to police that it was Flesher who was driving and not him. Flesher said he was in the passenger seat when the friends left Whiskey River, a Cape Girardeau bar.

Flesher said he never wanted to have to tell on a man who had been his friend since childhood. Flesher thought he would finally man up and admit it.

"I gave him every chance to give himself up as opposed to me having to be the one to say, 'That's the guy who did it,'" Flesher said.

"But he's still sticking to his story," he said. "And I'm not even so mad, really. I just thought he was a better friend."

Conrad is the younger brother of Jerry "Buddy" Conrad, the victim of a fatal stabbing that took place outside a Cape Girardeau bar last year. Conrad died Dec. 9, 2011.

A week ago tonight, the four friends went out. It was the one year anniversary of Buddy Conrad's death. Timpe and Flesher were on hand the night that Buddy Conrad died. Each said they tried to be there for their friend in the days and weeks afterward.

But on the night of the accident, Timothy Conrad never mentioned his brother. After having drinks at Whiskey River, Timpe said, the four decided to go to Vantroba's house. But Conrad insisted on driving Vantroba's BMW. As they approached Vantroba's home, Conrad made a U-turn and insisted on more driving in the country, Timpe said.

She doesn't know if the death of Conrad's brother was eating at him that night.

"He didn't really say anything about it," Timpe said. "But you don't really ever get over your brother being killed."

Ryan Harkey, the man charged with killing Conrad's brother, recently pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree involuntary manslaughter. The most he faces is four years in prison.

Timpe doesn't know how much Conrad drank that night. She met up with him later in the evening.

But everyone knew he was driving too fast, she said. But none of them knew that they wouldn't make it to Vantroba's house.

"No one ever wanted this to happen," Timpe said. "But Timmy keeps saying he wasn't driving. We even heard him telling Kaylie that in the ER when she wasn't even awake."

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

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