Ben Ross was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison Wednesday for leaving the scene of an accident/failure to render aid, but the jury returned a not guilty verdict for the more serious charges of reckless homicide and tampering with evidence in the 2017 hit-and-run that killed Donald Savage, 42, outside his home on Sabin Drive.

Ross, who was visibly shaken as he awaited the verdict, was 17 at the time of the incident. Matthew Taylor Putty was with Ross that night and has already pled guilty to leaving the scene of an accident/failure to render aid and tampering with evidence. Ross has admitted he was driving when the vehicle hit Savage.

“Ben Ross knows he murdered our son,” said Savage ’s father, John. 

Savage’s widow, Kathy and other family members, declined to comment but were noticeably upset and angry about the verdict. 

Putty and Ross drove out U.S. 25 the night of Feb. 19-20, 2017, to intentionally harass Donald Savage who had frequently complained about loud vehicles racing near his Westwoods subdivision home late at night, said Putty during court testimony Tuesday. The incident occurred shortly after midnight, according to police records.

Putty testified that Ross suggested they drive to Sabin Drive that night because he was aware that Savage was often annoyed by loud vehicles. It was Putty’s first time on Sabin Drive, he said.

Putty drove to the area and actually drove down the road and back, he said. Ross asked to drive so he could go down the road again, and Putty said he eventually agreed reluctantly. Ross drove down the road, turned around and on the way back struck Savage, but did not stop, Putty said. Somewhere down the road Ross became distraught, crying in disbelief about what had just happened, Putty said. At that point Putty moved into the drivers’ side and left the area.

Neither teen mentioned returning to the scene after Savage was struck, Putty said.

When questioned by the defense, Putty said he wasn’t testifying for leniency. Putty’s sentence is expected now that Ross’ trial is complete.

In other testimony, witnesses discussed the weather which had patches of fog. At the scene police reports quote Savage’s son, Storm, saying his father was in the middle of the road when he was struck, but Storm testified during the trial that his father was off to the side of the road when struck. Storm said the truck never slowed down, and he gave chase and provided identifying marks on the truck that eventually led to Putty and Ross’ arrests.

During closing arguments, prosecutor Lou Anna RedCorn told the jury it was Ross’ idea to go to Sabin Drive that night.

“(Ross) knew the owner of that home would come outside,” the prosecutor said. “No reasonable person would engage in such conduct.

“He killed somebody, and that’s a crime.”

One of Ross’ defense attorneys said the incident was an accident.

“Ben couldn’t have perceived (Savage would) be in the road,” he said. “Neither one of them (Ross or Savage) had time to react.”

 

Sam Steiert can be reached at ssteiert@news-graphic.com.

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