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Man arraigned for K-Beach hit and run

Posted: May 2, 2012 - 8:40am

A 56-year-old Nikiski resident arrested for striking a 7-year-old girl with his vehicle was arraigned Tuesday at the Kenai Courthouse.

John L. Smith's charges include first-degree assault, second-degree assault, two counts of third-degree assault, failing to render assistance to an injured person after an accident, second-degree forgery and two counts of tampering with physical evidence.

Smith is receiving counsel from Kenai attorney Will Walton, who will be appearing at preliminary hearings for his client. Smith remains at Wildwood Correctional Center on $150,000 bail. If released, he will be subject to a third-party custodian.

A bail hearing scheduled for Wednesday was reset. Walton said he plans to file motions to dismiss the first four counts against Smith. The incident initially was portrayed as an accident by one of the officers involved with the case, and now the state appears to be overcharging, he said.

Alaska States Troopers named Smith as the driver and sole occupant of the Toyota SUV that struck 7-year-old Talia Tepp near Milepost 14.5 of Kalifornsky Beach Road and then fled the scene on April 17.

Tepp was located lying injured near the edge of the road. She was alert and responsive but crying, Troopers reported. She was taken to Central Peninsula Hospital for non-life-threatening injuries and was expected to recover.

Witnesses to the accident provided Troopers with a description of the suspect as well as a description of the vehicle, a white Toyota 4Runner. The vehicle's previous owner indicated Smith in a photo lineup as the person who purchased the vehicle on April 9, troopers reported.

In addition, Kenai Adult Probations has been attempting to contact Smith regarding an unrelated incident. Smith allegedly eluded Anchorage Police Department officials on Feb. 13 and collided with one of their patrol vehicles in the process. He is also alleged to have eluded a Kenai probation official on April 14, speeding in excess of 100 mph, according to troopers.

Smith has a history of fleeing law enforcement, troopers reported.

At 10:35 a.m. on April 21, troopers, with the assistance of the United States Marshal Service, arrested Smith at a Kenai hotel. He was arrested on an outstanding warrant for probation violations on the original charges of fourth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance.

An April 27 indictment lists Smith and two codefendants.

Justin Weaver, 24, and Katelyn Goggia, 21, are charged with first-degree hindering prosecution and tampering with physical evidence. According to the indictment, Weaver and Goggia are charged with rendering assistance to a person who had committed a crime and suppressing, altering or concealing physical evidence on one occasion.

The Kenai District Attorney's Office offered no comment on the codefendants' involvement in the hit-and-run accident. Court records for Weaver and Goggia do not contain a police complaint, an account of the actions that led to the charges.

Trial for Smith's case is scheduled for July 16 at the Kenai Courthouse.

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