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Police: Driver leaves pedestrian in windshield

Tuesday, June 28, 2011
James John Onak Car from accident The victim was lodged in the suspects vehicle after being struck by on the Gulf Freeway.

A driver is accused of hitting a man on the Gulf Freeway, driving with the body next to him in the passenger seat, and unbelievably the driver says he had no idea.

The accident happened on the Gulf Freeway near Fuqua early Tuesday morning. When the man behind the wheel was stopped two miles away, the deputy constable who stopped him says he seemed unaware that a dead man was in the car with him. Now, he's facing charges.

It was at Beamer and Kirkvalley, two miles away from where the accident happened on the Gulf Freeway, that a Precinct 8 deputy constable stopped the black Mazda because of considerable front end damage and made a gruesome discovery.

Capt. Jason Finnen with the Precinct 8 Constable's Office said, "It wasn't until he had the driver step out of the car he noticed there was a body inside."

Investigators say the victim, a 32-year-old man, had broken down on the side of the freeway and had been running back and forth across I-45 when he was hit by the black Mazda on the shoulder. He crashed through the windshield and landed in James John Onak's car. But the constable's office says Onak seemed unaware that the dead man was there.

"He told the deputy that he had hit something. Didn't say it was a person but did say that he had hit something while travelling on the Gulf Freeway," Capt. Finnen said.

The Constable's Office says the deputy thought Onak might be under the influence. A mandatory blood draw was taken and now Onak, 49, is charged with one misdemeanor count of DWI, a felony count of failure to stop and render aid, and felony accident involving injury.

"Anytime you leave the scene of a crash involving injury, that's a felony," explained Catherine Evans with the Harris County District Attorney's Office. "When it's involving serious bodily injury to a person or a fatality, then at that point is becomes a true third-degree felony."

That means if he's convicted, Onak could spend two to 10 years in prison and there could be more charges coming.

"It's quite unusual," Finnen said. "You know it's unclear at this point if he knew that he had hit somebody and that somebody was in the car with him, but it's quite unusual."

An autopsy is underway on the victim whose name has not been released. The Houston Police Department is investigating and additional charges are possible.

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