A Lynden man has confessed to a hit and run crash that killed a man walking on a rural road near Birch Bay, the Washington State Patrol said Wednesday.
Authorities believe Joshua Karl Reynolds was walking east in the 3900 block of Birch Bay-Lynden Road when he was struck in the head by the passenger side mirror of a westbound pickup. A passerby found Reynolds’ body in a ditch off the westbound shoulder around 7:40 a.m. Monday, beside broken pieces of a side mirror. He was 33.
On Tuesday evening Kenneth Lee Kelly, 37, called 911 from a store in Burlington to tell state troopers he hit the man near Birch Bay, said Sgt. Mark Francis of the state patrol. Kelly owned a blue Dodge Ram pickup, a match to the debris found at the scene, Francis said.
At the nearest state patrol station, Kelly told detectives he felt an impact while driving west at 9 or 10 p.m. Saturday. Kelly said he circled back, thinking he might have hit a mailbox. But he saw nothing in the road so he drove on to his destination, according to a prosecutor’s summary of Kelly’s story.
The Dodge Ram – missing its passenger side mirror – was impounded. Troopers noted dents near the truck’s front bumper and passenger side door. The driver’s side mirror seemed to match pieces of the mirror found at the scene, authorities said.
Kelly was booked into Whatcom County Jail around 10 p.m. Tuesday on suspicion of hit and run of a fatality. His license was suspended at the time of the crash, and he faces a misdemeanor charge for that, according to the Whatcom County Prosecutor’s Office. Formal charges haven’t been filed yet.
Kelly has been convicted of driving with a suspended license at least five other times in the past 10 years. Court records show he served a 16-month prison sentence for dealing heroin in 2014, and completed his probation in August 2016.
Kelly listened to the allegations with his arms folded. He looked to the floor when Reynolds’ mother, Lisa Johnston, started to address Superior Court Commissioner Leon Henley about bail. She turned to a telephonic video screen showing Kelly in the jail courtroom.
“I want him to sleep like how I’m sleeping right now: horribly,” she said, fighting back tears. “I didn’t get to see my son on Mother’s Day, and every night that I go to bed, I think of my son, and every morning that I wake up, I miss him. And all you had to do was turn around and go back, and he might be here today.”
Henley told Johnston not to talk to Kelly. He offered his condolences, but explained the hearing was about bail and not about punishment. Henley set bail at $30,000.
Evidence suggests Reynolds was knocked unconscious on impact as he walked along the westbound side of the road, about 2 miles east of Birch Bay, said Dr. Gary Goldfogel, the Whatcom County medical examiner. An autopsy revealed Reynolds was struck while facing the truck. His body could have been in the ditch for days before it was discovered, Goldfogel said. Going by Kelly’s story, Reynolds would have been there for about 1 ½ days. Troopers weren’t able to find the pickup or the suspected driver for another 1 ½ days after the body was discovered.
State patrol detectives were working to determine when Reynolds was last seen alive. Both men lived in north Whatcom County for most or all of their adult lives.
Johnston spoke about her son outside the courtroom. Reynolds had lost his job as a motorhome park maintenance worker, she said, and he was struggling to beat his drug addiction.
“He was working on getting clean,” Johnston said. “That’s what’s so sad. He was working on the first steps of getting clean, and then this happened.”
Reynolds had been ticketed for driving without a license in the past, too, and fined $325. From then on he walked everywhere he went, his mother said.
“He was loving,” she said. “He cared about people. If he hurt somebody, he was first to apologize. If he made somebody cry, he cried because he made them cry.”