Driver pleads guilty in hit-and-run fatality

HANCOCK COUNTY — Jonathan Jacobi, who left a severely injured bicyclist in a ditch after striking him with his pickup truck last year, cried throughout a hearing Thursday that would go a long way toward determining his fate.

Seated at a desk between his two attorneys in Hancock County Circuit Court, Jacobi answered only in short sentences. But he raised his voice slightly to say “guilty, your honor,” when asked how he would plead in the fatal hit-and-run case against him.

Prosecutors have reached an agreement with Jacobi, 38, McCordsville, that could send him to prison for several years in the death of the bicyclist, Terry Huff.

Jacobi was driving the pickup truck that struck Huff, 67, Anderson, on July 26, 2019. Instead of stopping to help Huff, who had been thrown into a ditch, Jacobi drove his Ford F350 to a body shop in Marion County to have the damage from the collision repaired.

Jacobi pleaded guilty Thursday, July 9, to a Level 4 felony count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death or catastrophic injury. Judge Scott Sirk said he was taking the plea agreement under advisement before ordering a presentence investigation report.

The plea agreement calls for a sentence of up to six years with a cap of four years to be executed in prison. Jacobi is set to be sentenced Sept. 21 in circuit court.

Conviction on a Level 4 felony can carry a sentence of up to 12 years, with six years in prison being the average term. Prosecutor Brent Eaton said a plea agreement was appropriate in this case.

“There was a lot of hard work done by law enforcement and this office to get to the place where we are and to get justice for the (Huff) family,” Eaton said. “It’s always gratifying to see the results in a case like this.”

Deputy prosecutor Kevin Kelly, who handled the case for the prosecutor’s office, added: “It’s good that we came to the terms that we did,” Kelly said. “Now we’ll see what the judge will do.”

Huff, who suffered catastrophic injuries, died Aug. 4, 2019, after being taken off life support. Nine days earlier, he was riding his bicycle west on State Road 234 west of State Road 9 when he was struck from behind. The force of the collision threw Huff and his bicycle into a ditch, where he eventually was spotted by a passing motorist. A 911 call was placed at about 10:25 a.m; it’s unclear how long Huff had been in the ditch before he was found.

Jacobi pleaded not guilty and has been free on a $7,500 cash bond ever since.

Video surveillance footage that placed a truck like Jacobi’s near the scene helped lead detectives to his arrest. When initially interviewed by investigators, Jacobi said he had fallen asleep while driving and had “woken abruptly” but that he did not think he had struck anything, court records said. Shortly after that, when he saw the damage, he concluded he must have struck a mailbox, he told detectives, according to the court records.

Jacobi then told officials he didn’t know anything about a bicyclist being hit. It wasn’t until he was arrested and interviewed later by detectives that Jacobi stated he knew he had struck a bicyclist but that he had kept driving after the collision because he was scared, the court documents said.

“Had he stopped and helped, there would have been no crime,” Kelly said.

The victim, who was wearing a bright yellow reflective safety vest at the time of the accident, should have been easily visible on the edge of the road, officials said at the time. Huff was also wearing a helmet.

2020-10-19T18:57:45+00:00July 11th, 2020|Daily Reporter, High-profile cases|
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