Man indicted on charges of reckless driving with kids in car
By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor
COLUMBIANA – A 25-year-old Verbena man is facing up to 10 years in prison after he was indicted on charges alleging he attempted to fraudulently repossess a man’s vehicle before injuring the victim and fleeing the scene while driving recklessly with small children in the car.
A Shelby County grand jury returned a seven-count indictment against Phillip Merl Smitherman Jr., who lists an address on Chilton County 24 in Verbena, during its August term, upholding two felony counts of first-degree attempted theft of property, two misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child, one misdemeanor count of reckless endangerment, one misdemeanor count of third-degree assault and one misdemeanor count of harassment.
First-degree attempted theft is a Class C felony, and is punishable by up to 10 years in prison upon conviction.
The Alabaster Police Department arrested Smitherman on Dec. 11, 2015. The charges came after Smitherman allegedly “attempted to repossess (an) automobile that was not due to be repossessed” by attempting to take custody of an Alabaster man’s 1998 GMC Suburban. When the victim confronted the suspect, Smitherman allegedly fled the scene in his own vehicle, striking the victim with his vehicle in the process.
Alabaster Police Chief Curtis Rigney previously said a 3-year-old child and a 4-year-old child were riding as passengers in Smitherman’s vehicle when the suspect allegedly fled the scene and proceeded to drive recklessly. Smitherman was “a parent, guardian or other person legally charged with the care or custody” of the children, according to court documents.
Alabaster police received several calls reporting a reckless driver traveling through the city, and attempted to intercept the suspect at several locations. Police caught up to the suspect and apprehended him after Smitherman collided with an Alabama Power truck in the 800 block of U.S. 31.
The children were not injured in the incident, and were placed in safe custody after Smitherman’s arrest, Rigney said.
Smitherman has remained in the Shelby County Jail on bonds totaling $33,800 since his December 2015 arrest. He is now set to appear in Shelby County Circuit Court for a status call on Jan. 3, 2017.
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