Authorities can't find key witness to fatal hit-and-run

Posted at 5:37 PM, May 03, 2017

CINCINNATI -- Jailhouse phone recordings played in court Wednesday reveal more about Thomas Stidhum's efforts to prove his innocence.

Prosecutors presented close to a dozen different recorded phone calls Stidhum made while in jail. Some of those included calls to his mother, calls to the mother of his children and even calls to Moriah Johnson, the passenger who police said was with Stidhum at the time of the crash but now cannot be found.

In addition to the missing passenger, several recordings of interviews with witnesses at the scene have been lost.

Stidhum first began making the calls the day he was arrested in January 2016 on charges that he killed runner Cathy Chatfield in a hit-and-run crash. Chatfield, 57, was taking part in the Seven Hills Run/Walk when a Chrysler 300 jumped a curb on Dorchester Avenue and hit her on Dec. 5, 2015.

The driver ran from the scene, but police said Stidhum was the driver. He has said he wasn't the driver. He's facing charges of aggravated vehicular homicide, vehicular homicide, failure to stop following an accident and tampering with evidence.

In one phone call, he said his DNA is most likely in the car, but argued that doesn't mean he was the driver at the time of the crash.

Based on advice from his lawyer, Stidhum also said in a call that finding Johnson would be the key to his innocence.

Police testified that Stidhum had been using other inmates' personal identification numbers in order to make more calls and not have his conversations so easily tracked by authorities. 

Some of those calls could help lead police to Johnson based on cellphone "pings."

The case could go to the jury for deliberations as soon as Friday.