Double-fatal motorcycle accident case moves to new stage in court Friday

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Frank Schultz
Friday, May 16, 2014

JANESVILLE—Auto parts found at the scene of a double fatality traffic crash near Janesville on April 20 could have come only from the vehicle driven by suspect Sambath Pal that day, a sheriff's detective testified Friday.

Rock County sheriff's Detective Ronald Betley testified about the findings of the state crime lab at Pal's preliminary hearing Friday in Rock County Court.

The match was one of the facts weighed by Court Commissioner Stephen Meyer as he bound Pal over for trial.

Pal stood mute to the two charges of hit and run resulting in death, and Meyer entered not-guilty pleas on his behalf.

Betley was the only witness to testify Friday.

Asked about the wheel-well liner and fog-lamp assembly pieces found at the scene, Betley said the state crime lab had compared the vehicle Pal was driving that day and found that the parts matched that vehicle “to the exclusion of any other source.”

The fact that specialists at the lab matched the broken parts to the vehicle strengthens the prosecution's case, District Attorney David O'Leary said after the hearing.

“It allowed us show probable cause that this was the only vehicle that caused the accident that resulted in the death of these two young men,” said O'Leary, who sat at the prosecutor's table while Assistant District Attorney Anne Nack quizzed Betley, the only witness.

Mitchell J. Vance, 24, and Devin J. Julius, 18, both of Janesville, died from injuries suffered in the crash.

Pal, 24, of Park City, Ill., is suspected of driving the Infiniti QX56 that crossed the centerline on Highway 14 near Harmony Town Hall Road and struck motorcycles driven by Julius and Vance.

Pal apparently had borrowed the SUV from his father, Saroeun Tigh, also of Park City.

Tigh called Rock County authorities April 24 after hearing about the case from relatives in Janesville, according to the criminal complaint.

Tigh told investigators Pal had driven the Infiniti to Janesville over the weekend, and the vehicle had front-end damage when Pal returned.

Pal told Tigh he had hit something with the vehicle but did not know what it was and that he did not stop, Betley said.

Betley testified that Pal's Janesville girlfriend and the girlfriend's mother placed Pal in the Infiniti around the time of the crash. Pal had been visiting the family that weekend, and the family lives off Milwaukee Street, not far from the accident scene.

The Infiniti Pal was driving had damage to its bumper consistent with the crash, including a missing wheel-well liner, Betley testified.

Defense attorney John P. Holevoet asked whether anyone had accompanied Pal when he drove the Infiniti to Janesville that weekend. Betley said he did not know but that Pal's father saw only Pal in the vehicle when he left.

Holevoet also asked about ownership of the Infiniti. Tigh apparently was not the legal owner, but he had taken over payments on it from another person, according to the criminal complaint.

No further proceedings have been scheduled in the case, which is assigned to Judge Richard Werner.

Pal is being held at the Rock County Jail on a $200,000 cash bond.

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