Valdosta Daily Times

November 14, 2013

Driver charged in fatal Berrien chase

By Adam Floyd & Angye Morrison
The Valdosta Daily Times

NASHVILLE — Charges have been filed against the Tifton man who led officers on a vehicle chase Tuesday that resulted in a crash that killed a brother and sister and injured another sibling on her birthday, according to authorities Wednesday.

Israel Timothy Rutland, 38, has been charged with two counts of homicide by vehicle in the deaths of siblings Matthew Dean Horton and Kelly Marie Prescott, according to the Georgia State Patrol.

Horton, 23, and Prescott, 32, both of Willacoochee, were in a black SUV at the intersection of Enigma Road and Tifton Road Tuesday when a silver Ford F-150 pickup truck, eluding officers in a high-speed chase, T-boned the siblings’ vehicle.

Rutland faces one count of serious injury after another SUV passenger, Heidi Nicole Mancil, was injured, life-flighted and transferred to a Tallahassee, Fla., hospital, but her injuries are not life-threatening, said GSP Senior Trooper Richard Kennedy.

Mancil is Horton and Prescott’s sister. The family was reportedly out preparing to celebrate Mancil’s 31st birthday, which was Tuesday.

Rutland reportedly broke his back in the wreck, and was being treated in a Macon hospital, according to the Tift County Sheriff’s Office. Kenney said that a strong alcohol smell was noticed when attending to Rutland after the crash.

Even with the reports of a broken back, Tift County Sheriff Gene Scarbrough reported in a Tifton press conference Wednesday that the suspect remained aggressive even after the wreck.

“When his vehicle stopped, he got out fighting. They tried to take him down and he fought the officers,” Scarbrough said.

Rutland had been wanted by the Tift County Sheriff’s Office after a hit and run accident in Tift County last Thursday. Georgia State Patrol pursued him, but the chase was terminated without an arrest.  

Rutland was then spotted Monday by Tift County officers and was pulled over. He was able to escape arrest by attempting to hit officers with his vehicle. Deputies chased him, but the pursuit ended without an arrest, and a warrant was issued for aggravated assault on a police officer, according to reports.

In the Wednesday press conference, Scarbrough said that on Tuesday, Tift County deputies attempted to make a traffic stop on the suspect in his pickup truck. The suspect refused to stop, and the pursuit began, but was terminated when the suspect eluded the officers. A deputy later spotted the suspect and followed him into Cook County while waiting for assistance from other counties. The deputy followed the suspect into Berrien County, where the suspect attempted to run the deputy off the road.

As the suspect continued on Enigma-Nashville Road, Enigma police officers joined the chase, as well as Berrien County sheriff’s deputies, assisting in the pursuit between Enigma and Nashville. Stop sticks were employed by the Nashville Police Department in an attempt to stop the suspect. The suspect ran over the stop sticks, ran a stop sign at Highway 125, and collided with the SUV. It’s been estimated that the suspect was driving at about 75 to 80 miles per hour at the point of collision.

Rutland faces additional charges in Berrien County of driving under the influence, reckless driving and failure to stop at a stop sign, according to authorities. He is charged with aggravated assault on a police officer in Tift County.

When asked about the chase, Scarbrough said his officers followed standard procedure, and that he felt he and other officers had made the best choices they could, given the situation.

“The people that he’s tried to run over, including my deputies and at the Enigma Police Department … there was a total disregard for law enforcement,” Scarbrough said. “We don’t like to chase, and even with nobody hurt, it’s very emotional. But you have to decide whether you do it, or put the mindset out there that I can do something and they won’t chase me. What do we do? We have to make a decision on every event. Would we have chased him on a minor traffic violation? No. But since he had tried to injure some of my officers and others, that made it serious. And that’s what we went on.”

Scarbrough choked up during the press conference, and said the families of the victims are in his thoughts and prayers.

“It hurts so bad to know that these people’s lives have changed forever because of somebody that made a bad decision. There’s people who are going to say I made a bad decision,” Scarbrough said. “But had the person we were chasing not made a bad decision, we wouldn’t be where we were at.”

Angye Morrison is with The Tifton Gazette.