Jury considers case of man accused of killing woman in hit-and-run

Posted at 4:22 PM, May 05, 2017

CINCINNATI -- Cathy Chatfield's family have to wait through the weekend to find out what will happen to the man accused of killing her in a hit-and-run crash.

Jurors in the Thomas Stidhum trial will continue Monday. They were sent home after three hours of deliberations Friday. It's up to them to decide if Stidhum was driving the car that killed Chatfield, a well-liked runner.

Stidhum was called everything from "young and dumb" to "heartless" during closing arguments Friday.

"There is no sympathy from this guy," prosecutor Chuck Thiemann said. "He expresses no remorse at all, not a shred of sentiment."

Chatfield, 57, had been taking part in the Seven Hills Run/Walk on Dec. 5, 2015 when a Chrysler 300 jumped the curb on Dorchester Avenue and hit her from behind. Witnesses said the driver tried to take the license plates off the car and ran away.

Stidhum is facing charges of aggravated vehicular homicide, vehicular homicide, failure to stop following an accident and tampering with evidence.

Police didn't arrest Stidhum until a month later. Investigators said they identified him as the suspect partly because of DNA evidence on a soda bottle in the car and a bloody sheet of paper found nearby.

However, authorities faced some issues in prosecuting the case. Recordings of nine witness statements taken at the scene of the crash have been lost. And a key witness, Moriah Johnson, couldn't be found to testify. Police said she was a passenger in the car at the time of the crash. Now there's a warrant out for her arrest.

With those pieces of evidence missing, Stidhum's defense lawyer, MJ Hugan, argued that Stidhum had not been behind the wheel when the car hit Chatfield. Stidhum originally told police he was asleep and nowhere near Mount Auburn. Hugan said police had "pressured" a witness to point out Stidhum.

"Somebody needs to be held accountable for this, Hugan said. "OK, but let's make sure it;s the right person. Let's not just say, Oh it's him,' and make the case fit."

Police testifying at the trial spoke about another hit-and-run crash they said Stidhum caused just 15 days before Chatfield was killed. In that incident, police said Stidhum had been speeding at 100 mph in a red Camaro, then crashed head-on into a pickup truck. He then ran from the scene. He had also previously been convicted of driving under OVI suspension, failure to comply with an officer and obstructing with official business, among other crimes.

During 2.5 hours of closing arguments Friday, prosecutors tried to paint Stidhum as reckless and negligent, while defense attorneys said there was too much doubt because of the missing evidence.

The jury will be back to work on the case Monday morning.