Pickup hits, kills bicyclist

Posted: Wednesday, July 05, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- An Anchorage man with six previous drunken driving convictions was driving drunk when he struck and killed a college student riding her bicycle on the sidewalk along Minnesota Drive late Monday, Anchorage police said.

Russell D. Carlson, 39, who had a 2-year-old child in the truck with him, was charged with manslaughter, child abuse, driving while intoxicated and driving while his license was revoked, police said.

The bicyclist was Jessie Withrow, 20, who grew up in Anchorage and was a dean's list student at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. She was pronounced dead at Providence Alaska Medical Center on Tuesday afternoon.

Police Lt. Bob Griffiths said Carlson had six DWI convictions in Alaska.

The crash happened at about 11:30 p.m. Carlson was driving a white full-size pickup, police spokesman Ron McGee said.

Witnesses told police that Carlson was weaving and driving fast while heading south on Minnesota. He ran into a Ford Explorer that had stopped for a red light on Northern Lights Boulevard, then went on the sidewalk and struck Withrow on her bike, according to police. His truck then went into the parking lot of the Aurora Village Shopping Center and crashed into three parked cars, police said.

The 2-year-old child and another man in the truck were not hurt, police said. The relationship between Carlson and the child wasn't clear.

Family friends of the young woman who died described her as exceptionally bright and creative.

''Jessie was a very unusual child. It was like she was way grown up beyond her years. She was destined to do great things. The world is going to be a cheated place for the fact she was not able to achieve her potential,'' said Susan Peck, who has a daughter close to Withrow and who is a friend of Withrow's mother, Wendy.

Withrow sang with her mother at the Renaissance Festival and the Anchorage Folk Festival. She served on the Anchorage Youth Court, helping kids who had gotten in trouble. In 1998, she graduated with honors from Steller Secondary School and won a scholarship to Bates College, a liberal arts school. She was home for summer break and would have been a junior, studying English.

Carlson is being held at Cook Inlet Pre-Trial Facility on $100,000 bail.

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