A jury trial is set to begin Tuesday morning in the hit-and-run death of a University of Kentucky freshman.
On April 13, Connie Blount, 18, was struck and killed while crossing South Broadway against the traffic signal about 2:30 a.m. Police say she was struck by a southbound pickup and died at UK Hospital. Shannon D. Houser was arrested about two weeks later. He has been indicted on charges of fleeing the scene, tampering with physical evidence and marijuana possession.
In Fayette Circuit Court on Monday morning, Houser, 37, nearly entered a guilty plea to the charges. Prosecutors recommended five years on the tampering charge, 12 months for the fleeing charge and 30 days on the marijuana possession charge. They opposed a request for probation.
Houser stood before Judge James Ishmael for several minutes discussing the matter with his attorney, Ed Dove.
"I don't feel I did it. I don't know how I could get a fair shake," he said. "Honestly, I don't feel like I did this."
He also told the judge his family needed him at home and he could not go to jail Monday.
Potential jurors are expected to report at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Houser was not charged with homicide.
Last spring, Houser told investigators that he was home at the time of the accident, according to court records.
But phone records show Houser made several outgoing calls on his cell phone shortly after the wreck that were routed through a cellular communications site at 200 Bolivar Street, about 0.2 miles from the scene of the crash.
Houser's home on Detroit Avenue is about 1.75 miles from the cellular communications site on Bolivar Street, according to court records.
Police also matched missing parts from Houser's truck to broken and damaged vehicle parts left at the scene of the wreck.
On Monday, Connie Blount's father, Jack, said he expected Houser to plead guilty.
"We're disappointed he didn't plead guilty as he intended to, but we're completely prepared to go to trial and feel justice will be done in court," Jack Blount said afterward.
Nonetheless, Jack Blount said he would never have justice because Houser was not charged with his daughter's death.
"The law doesn't support justice," Jack Blount said. He added that he thinks Houser should have been charged with murder.
Connie Blount's death spurred the General Assembly last year to make it a felony to drive away from a car wreck that involves a death. Gov. Steve Beshear signed the measure into law in April.
The new felony carries a maximum sentence of five years.
Jack Blount doesn't think that's enough, and is hoping to speak to legislators in this session to persuade them to increase the penalty.
For now, Jack Blount is focused on Houser's trial. He was angered by Houser's comments about needing to be home for his family instead of pleading guilty to the charges.
"Connie had her whole life ahead of her," Jack Blount said. "She didn't get any second choices."