By Rob Langrell
Publisher of the Sidney Sun-Telegraph 

Sidney man charged in fatal hit-and-run

Jeronimo has previous conviction for leaving scene of accident

 

Ryan Hermens

Abel D. Jeronimo, left, is escorted by Sheriff John Jenson after appearing in County Court on Thursday morning.

Abel D. Jeronimo described himself as "frightened" in a conversation with law enforcement authorities this morning.

Jeronimo, who came forward to talk with Cheyenne County Sheriff's deputies Thursday morning, told his side of the events that led up to the fatal crash near Dalton on Tuesday morning that killed 45-year-old Martin Geiger Jr. of Sidney and Chappell. A passenger in Geiger's vehicle – Kathy Berger, 53 of Bayard and Chappell – remains hospitalized at Regional West Medical Center in Scottsbluff.

Neither Geiger nor Berger were wearing seat belts, and both were ejected from the truck.

Following the Thursday morning interview, 38-year-old Sidney resident Jeronimo was arrested and charged with failing to stop, disclose information and render assistance in an accident involving death – a Class III felony. He was arraigned in Cheyenne County Court in front of Judge Randin R. Roland later in the morning and is being held on $100,000 bond.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and/or a $25,000 fine, and a minimum of one year in prison.

A preliminary hearing was set for Monday, April 20 at 1:30 p.m. in District Court. Tom Sontag was named as Jeronimo's court-appointed attorney.

In court documents obtained today by The Sidney Sun-Telegraph, Jeronimo has a previous conviction of leaving the scene of an accident and no proof of insurance stemming from an August 2013 incident. He was found guilty, sentenced to one day in jail (receiving credit for time served) and fined $400 plus court costs. A charge of obstructing a peace officer was dismissed with prejudice.


Jeronimo arrived outside the sheriff's offices in Sidney shortly after 6 a.m. Thursday and met with Chief Deputy Sheriff Fred Wiedeburg. Jeronimo, who speaks English as a second language, was read his Miranda rights and provided a translator – Miguel Mosqueda, a Spanish-speaking correctional officer from the county jail.

During the interview, Jeronimo waived his right to an attorney and "wanted to explain and give his side," according to the court affidavit. Wiedeburg then went over Jeronimo's Miranda Rights again to make sure he fully understood them.

Jeronimo gave the following account, according to court documents:

"He was driving to work by Dalton and it was very foggy, so he was driving slowly. As he got near Dalton, he put on his turning indicator as he was preparing to turn left (west). He saw a truck coming up behind him and the driver seemed inpatient and began to pass him. He believed there was an oncoming vehicle from the north out of Dalton and that caused the truck to turn into him, making contact between the two vehicles," he said through the translation by Mosqueda.


"He knew that the truck entered the ditch and rolled, and he was very scared. He stopped his car and waited, but did not know what to do and was shaking. He advised not having any medical training and that he was so frightened that his English was forgotten, as it is only his second language. He recalled other vehicles stopping, so he left and went to work. He advised that since he was 'local' he knew that law enforcement would find him."

Jeronimo, who stands 5-foot, 1-inch tall and weighs 165 pounds, stood before Judge Roland on Thursday morning clad in a jail-issued orange jumpsuit, sandals, leg shackles and handcuffs. The arraignment was held with the assistance of a translator on speakerphone who translated the proceedings from the judge and County Attorney Paul Schaub to Jeronimo.

Cheyenne County Sheriff John Jenson said multiple tips from the public and cooperation from the Sidney Police Department, Nebraska State Patrol and the Colorado Highway Patrol helped in the investigation.

At about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, sheriff's deputies received a call from a person who said that Jeronimo had admitted to them earlier in the afternoon that he had been driving the second vehicle involved in the crash near Dalton. They provided Jeronimo's cell phone number.

Shortly before 9 p.m. Wednesday, Wiedeburg called Jeronimo, who said he was at a friend's house in Brush, Colo. Wiedeburg asked when he would be returning to Sidney and that he needed to talk with him about the accident.

According to court documents, Jeronimo said "he felt like he was already considered guilty and that he felt like the accident was not his fault and that the truck hit him."

Wiedeburg asked Jeronimo to return to Sidney as soon as possible, and he agreed, showing up to meet with sheriff's deputies this morning.

 

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