Cyclist dies after hit-and-run; driver to be charged with aggravated vehicular homicide, police say

Melinda Woodall had pills, heroin paraphernalia

ANDERSON TOWNSHIP, Ohio – A bicyclist died Monday after being hit by a hit-and-run driver suspected of being on drugs Sunday afternoon.

Charges against the driver will be upgraded to aggravated vehicular homicide, the sheriff's office said.

Michael Prater

The driver, Melinda Woodall, 34, of Amelia, tried to hide three bottles of pills in her bra after hitting 42-year-old Michael Prater of Cincinnati on Kellogg Avenue. Woodall had five syringes with residue, a metal spoon and a tourniquet in her purse that she admitted using for heroin, according to police.

Earlier Monday, Woodall told a judge that she was distracted by passengers in the rear seat when she hit Prater, but police said she appeared to be under the influence of prescription narcotics.

Woodall said she didn't stop at the scene because she panicked.

Before Prater died, Woodall had been charged with aggravated vehicular assault, drug possession, driving under suspension and failure to stop after an accident. The bottles contained schedule 3 and 4 drugs, Alprazolam, Clonazepam and Buprenophine, police said. Her bail had been set at $33,000 but she was still confined at the Justice Center as of Monday afternoon.

Prater died about 10:30 a.m. Monday, according to the sheriff's office. Prater was wearing a helmet at the time but he was in critical condition when he was taken to University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

RELATED: Nothing "accidental" about hit-and-run that killed cyclist

Fellow cyclists are posting messages and condolences on Facebook. Friends of the family have organized a memorial "Ghost Ride" for Saturday, Feb. 6.

"We really all feel the pain because it could be any one of us," said Derek Drifmeyer, president of Cincinnati Cycle Club.

Drifmeyer said he didn't know Prater personally, but as tight-knit as the cycling community is, his death is a tragic loss.

"This was completely preventable. She just shouldn't have been on the road," he said.

Prater was a "very experienced rider" attorney Steve Magas said.

Magas has represented many cyclists hit by cars. He says a proposed bill in the Ohio House would make stricter penalties for motorists who hit bicyclists and drive off.

"If we can get people to think and realize, 'Oh gee, hit and stay is not going to be as bad as hit and run,' then maybe people will start sticking around " he said.

Woodall was driving a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee west near Asbury Road at 3:54 p.m. when she partially crossed into the shoulder and hit Prater from behind, throwing him from the bike, police said. He landed in the road and Woodall drove off without lending aid, according to the police affidavit.

Witnesses immediately called 911.

Officials found Woodwall's Jeep abandoned in the 1700 block of Sutton Road at 4:17 p.m. and Cincinnati police and Hamilton County deputies "saturated the area" searching for the driver, deputies said. They found Woodall a short distance away, in the 1800 block of Sutton Road.

Woodall admitted to hitting Prater, deputies said.

Bicycling expert Peter Wimburg said he has ridden the same path hundreds of times and considers it safe under normal conditions.

“Kellogg Avenue from Coney Island on out is a very popular cycling area even though it’s two lanes each way and the speed limit is 55. There’s a big shoulder,” he said.

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