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Issue of October 29, 2014
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Driver charged in deadly chase

October 16, 2013 | 09:16 AM

The motorist who allegedly fled from a Marengo police officer that resulted in a crash that killed his passenger faces several charges.

Robert Banet, 44, of Leavenworth was initially charged with three felonies — Class B resisting law enforcement, Class C reckless homicide and Class D operating a vehicle while privileges are suspended as an habitual traffic violator — on Aug. 20. Then, on Sept. 23, the Crawford County Prosecutor's Office filed additional charges: Class C felony causing the death of another person when operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, Class C felony causing the death of another person when operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, having an alcohol concentration equivalent to at least 0.08 gram of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or 210 liters of breath, Class A misdemeanor operating a vehicle while intoxicated and Class C misdemeanor operating a vehicle with blood-alcohol content of at least 0.08 but less than 0.15.

Banet was driving a 1991 GMC pick-up truck with defective taillights on Aug. 16 when he allegedly began traveling at a high rate of speed after Marengo Marshal James Harrington activated the overhead emergency lights on his patrol car.

According to the affidavit for probable cause, Harrington followed the vehicle on Old Water Street toward its intersection with Meridian Street and Valeene Road, where Banet failed to stop at the stop sign and turned north onto Meridian Street/Valeene Road. The narrow and curvy road is well-traveled with a 40-mph speed limit prior to leaving the town limits.

Harrington said he turned on his vehicle's siren and notified Crawford County Dispatch that he was in pursuit of Banet's vehicle.

"As I was attempting to stop said vehicle," he said, "I noticed that I was traveling approximately 90 miles per hour, and I estimated that said vehicle was about 200 feet in front of me.

"I then briefly lost sight of said vehicle prior to me cresting a hill about one mile north of the Marengo town limits, and, after cresting said hill, I noticed that the vehicle had collided with a tree."

Banet's passenger, Jeannine Marie Farrell, 56, of Mauckport was pronounced dead at the scene by the Crawford County Coroner's Office. Harrington, in the affadavit, said Farrell was wearing a seat belt.

Harrington also noted that, upon Banet being removed from the vehicle, he smelled a strong odor of alcohol on Banet's breath.

Banet was airlifted to University Hospital in Louisville for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

According to the affidavit, Banet's operator's license previously had been indefinitely suspended.

Banet was arrested on Aug. 27 and taken to the Crawford County Jail.

Harrington, who had requested a two-week leave of absence, is back on duty.

  1. print email
    County Pursuit Policy?
    October 18, 2013 | 12:39 PM

    I am not defending anything the driver did in this incident, but was there a need to chase a vehicle due to defective tailight at speeds of 90 mph?

    After getting the vehicle tag number etc, the issue could've been pursued by going to the address at which the vehicle is registered to see who was driving it.

    This situation may not have warranted it, but some pursuits should not occur based on the situation. I only make this post to ask if there is a county vehicle pursuit policy, and if not, maybe we need one.

    JW Lehman
  2. print email
    Deadly Pursuit
    October 20, 2013 | 01:47 PM

    Dear JW Lehman,

    That may be true, but if the person speeds off, that usually means nine times out of ten, that they have something they have to hide. In your situation, the offender gets home, and can just have someone else go to the door and say "It was me," so the offender can be free to go out and do it again.

    Joey Gleitz
  3. print email
    Joey is correct...
    October 21, 2013 | 08:52 AM

    JW, Joey is correct. This person in the vehicle that sped off, could have just committed a robbery, or some other crime that has not yet been reported. If he were to get away, he could repeat the offense, or blame someone else, or dispose of important evidence. I agree that some pursuits can be avoided, and it is completely the officers call, but... You have to consider what could happen if you let that person escape. You just really never know. A pursuit policy is probably not a good idea, simply because if an offender knows that if they hit a certain speed... then the chase will be discontinued... they will probably all do it.. Each pursuit should be maintained on a case by case basis. Also this person had a passenger. There is no way to determine at that time if she was willing, or being abducted... See what I mean?

  4. print email
    October 27, 2013 | 07:33 PM

    I just want to point out to the first person who commented that the police officer in this pursuit that had a tragic ending is not a county police officer, and I doubt if the Marengo Police Dept. has a pursuit policy.

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