DES MOINES, Iowa — A Des Moines man has been charged with first-degree murder for a hit-and-run crash that killed a woman and her dog.
Des Moines police responded to the crash around 8:15 a.m. Sunday in the 1700 block of Beaver Avenue. The scene left a 38-year-old Des Moines woman and her dog dead and triggered multiple crime scenes with police tape stretching for blocks.
Police have now charged 49-year-old Des Moines resident Jason Robert Sassman with one count of first-degree murder and one count of animal neglect.
Police say evidence at the scene and witness statements indicate that Sassman was driving a pickup truck northbound in the 1700 block of Beaver Avenue at a high speed. Sassman’s vehicle allegedly left the roadway and drove over the east curb. The truck struck and severed a utility pole, continued on through residential yards and onto the sidewalk, before striking the woman and her dog as they walked along the sidewalk.
Police say Sassman fled the scene until his truck became disabled at Beaver Avenue and Hickman Road. That’s when police say Sassman abandoned his truck and attempted to escape on foot. He was taken into custody by police near Beaver Avenue and Urbandale Avenue, nearly a mile away from the initial crash site.
“Any time someone takes off and doesn’t stand around to be accountable for what they’ve done, that adds another layer that complicates our investigation,” said Des Moines Police Sgt. Paul Parizek.
The pursuit may offer a now grieving family the comfort of potential justice. “To see the patrol cops get this done this morning as quick as they did, it certainly relieves some of that pressure. It certainly takes it off our investigators also so we are able to get this moving forward and find some answers for the folks who lost someone today,” said Parizek.
Des Moines Police Department Traffic Unit investigators, assisted by the Des Moines Police
Department Crime Scene Investigation Unit and the Iowa State Patrol, continue to investigate.
“When you think about crash scenes, this is probably one of the worst I’ve seen in a long time,” said Parizek.
Beaver Avenue is now open to traffic.