Court docs: Passenger, owner ID driver in double-fatality crash

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) The passenger in a BMW that crashed into a Volkswagen and SUV last month in a late-night collision that killed a young couple told investigators that he looked over to find the driver gone.

Now, 31-year-old Justin T. Votaw of Fort Wayne faces five counts of leaving the scene of a crash that resulted in injury and death. Votaw, who was arrested Friday evening, was formally arraigned on the felony charges Monday morning.

Mugshot of Justin Votaw, provided by the Allen County Sheriff's Department.
Mugshot of Justin Votaw, provided by the Allen County Sheriff’s Department.

According to a probable cause affidavit released Monday, Randy Coleman told police he was the passenger in a 2002 BMW involved in a Feb. 20 in the 1800 block of West Jefferson Boulevard that killed 23-year-old Jonny Tracy and 24-year-old Alisa Arseneau. Coleman told police the Volkswagen that Tracy and Arseneau were in became fully engulfed in flames after the crash, the affidavit said.

Also after that crash, Coleman told investigators that “the driver’s door was open and Justin was not in the seat,” the affidavit said. “Coleman said he did not see Justin anywhere around the crash scene,” according to the affidavit.

The owner of the BMW, Ashley Burda, told investigators that Votaw was using her car and had the vehicle the night of the crash, the affidavit said.

READ | Justin Votaw charging information

Burda also said Votaw had told her that the driver of the Volkswagen caused the crash. Police noted in the affidavit that the Volkswagen and BMW were both westbound on West Jefferson when the Volkwagen began to lose control and went sideways into the curve and bumped the BMW. Witnesses said the Volkswagen then crossed the centerline and hit an oncoming Chevrolet Equinox and then hit the BMW, the affidavit said.

The driver of the Equinox was seriously hurt and a passenger suffered minor injuries.

During a March 3 interview with police, Votaw reportedly told police that he was driving the BMW but said he was not sure why he left the scene after the crash. He said he did not call 911 and the affidavit noted he never reported the crash.

Votaw said he “knows he was in the river due to his clothes being all wet,” and added he woke up at a friend’s home along Forest Avenue.

FWPD still have not determined the cause of the crash. An officer told Newschannel 15 that the crash was so severe a special investigation team was called in. On Monday evening Newschannel 15 went to Votaw’s New Haven home and spoke with family members who said that Votaw did not cause the crash. They declined to go on camera but said Votaw is distraught over the situation and they are waiting for the truth to come out.

Votaw is due back in court Thursday.