• Tue September 15 2009
  • Posted Sep 14, 2009
Winterset, IA One of Paul "Jud" McKinney's neighbors in Winterset remembers wondering why he was working on his truck so late at night. Now, she says, she thinks she knows. McKinney, 79, was accused Monday of being the hit-and-run driver who killed bicyclist Mark Grgurich on Aug. 30. Amber Gustafson said she drove by McKinney's garage the day after Grgurich was killed and noticed McKinney's garage door was up and the front end of his truck was on jacks. "It was about 9:30 or 10 o'clock at night and I heard a really loud noise," she said. "I wondered what he was doing, because it was so late. I slowed down a little bit, but I didn't want him to think I was being nosy." Gustafson said she didn't think about what she saw again until she saw a picture of a white Chevrolet truck on the evening news. "I put two and two together," she said. Grgurich, 54, of Des Moines was hit and killed by a truck traveling at high speed while he was riding his bicycle east in the 3400 block of Warren County Road G14 near Cumming. McKinney appeared in Warren County District Court on Monday on charges of leaving the scene of a fatality accident, a felony; obstruction of prosecution by destruction of evidence, an aggravated misdemeanor; and failure to maintain control of a vehicle, a simple misdemeanor. He was being held in the Warren County Jail on $10,000 bond. Arraignment is set for Sept. 22. Warren County sheriff's officials released on Sept. 3 a surveillance picture of the white truck they believed killed Grgurich, a goldsmith and jewelry designer at Elements Ltd. in Des Moines. Some Winterset residents said they recognized the truck right away. "The picture of the truck they showed on the news was his truck," said Beverly Smith, who lives across the street from McKinney. "I knew it was his truck. Everyone in town would have known it was his truck." Gustafson said before she saw the truck on the news, she had noticed McKinney wasn't driving the truck anymore. "Several people around town noticed it, too," she said. "He was driving a car." In Winterset, the truck with "Jud McKinney" written across the driver's door was a common sight. Its license plate said: "OHH YES." And it was covered with pro-police stickers. One of them said: "I (heart) Cops." Another one indicated the owner of the truck was a 2009 member of the Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association. Another sticker said he was an honorary member of the Iowa State Troopers Association. There was also a sticker for the Iowa State Police Association. Neighbors said the same night the surveillance picture of the truck was released to the news media, crime scene tape was stretched around McKinney's property. "He's never been any kind of issue here in the neighborhood," said neighbor Judy Fontana. "He's never given me any suspicions or anything. ... He's been a good neighbor." McKinney had been caring for his ailing wife, neighbors said. After police went to his house, his wife went to a care facility, they said. Court papers allege that on Aug. 30, McKinney was driving east on County Road G14 in a 1986 Chevrolet pickup truck when his truck struck Grgurich. "After striking the bicyclist ... the defendant then left the scene and failed to give aid and notify authorities of the accident," court papers said. "After leaving the scene, the defendant then destroyed, altered and tried to conceal evidence of the accident that caused damage to his white 1986 Chevy truck." Warren County authorities confirmed on Sept. 4 that a white 1986 Chevrolet pickup truck believed to have been involved in Grgurich's death had been seized, but they did not identify the truck's owner at that time or say whether the owner was a suspect. Bryan Tingle, assistant Warren County attorney, said Monday, "After they found the truck, evidence was sent to a lab. Based on the sheriff's investigation it was determined we had enough to bring charges." McKinney has had three traffic convictions since 1998 - one for speeding, a child-seat violation and a registration violation. Sheena Thomas, a long-time friend and co-worker of Grgurich's, said Monday that she was relieved to learn of charges in the case. "I guess my feeling - our feeling - is that until the person has actually gone through a trial and been convicted, he's innocent until proven guilty," Thomas said. "We are not about revenge. But we do want the person who did this to be held accountable for his actions. It doesn't bring Mark back, and we are really missing Mark here. He added a lot of creativity and productivity to this shop. His presence was monumental here."

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