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Jan. 24, 2021

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Vehicular homicide trial begins for Vancouver man accused in Washougal crash

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor

The vehicular homicide trial began Monday for a Vancouver man accused of striking and killing an elderly man who was crossing a Washougal road in September 2018.

In addition to the homicide charge, Michael Evan Ross-Morales, 62, is being tried in Clark County Superior Court on hit-and-run resulting in death and second-degree driving with a suspended or revoked license, according to amended charging information filed Monday. He has been in custody since May 2019.

The victim, 65-year-old Michael Simmelink, died from his injuries a week after the crash.

Jury selection was completed early Monday afternoon at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds. The case then moved to the Clark County Courthouse for opening statements and witness testimony.

According to an affidavit of probable cause, Ross-Morales had borrowed a Hyundai Accent belonging to his roommate, Dean Miesbauer, on the afternoon of Sept. 30, 2018, to deliver legal paperwork to a Camas residence.

Around 8:20 p.m., Washougal police were dispatched to a car crash involving a pedestrian near the corner of Washougal River Road and E Street.

Witnesses said a vehicle was speeding south on Washougal River Road toward the intersection of E Street. Simmelink, with the use of a walker, was crossing the street from east to west, close to the entrance of a gas station. Surveillance video from the gas station captured the speeding vehicle, the affidavit says.

“The vehicle struck the pedestrian, throwing him violently into the air and landing him in the parking lot of the gas station several feet away from the impact location,” the affidavit reads.

The car’s brake lights briefly illuminated, investigators said, but the driver did not stop to help Simmelink or call 911.

Simmelink was taken to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver for treatment of his injuries but died Oct. 7, 2018.

Court records say Miesbauer and another man picked up Ross-Morales after the crash on Crown Road in Camas. Miesbauer had called police about 10:30 p.m. and said his Hyundai had been stolen while Ross-Morales was using it. (Miesbauer is being held at the Clark County Jail as a material witness, court records show.)

Ross-Morales said a friend was driving the car, and they were serving legal documents in Camas when a “young kid got in the car and drove off,” according to the affidavit.

The missing Hyundai was located Oct. 1, 2018, on Southeast Strong Avenue, near Crown Road in Camas, with damage to the windshield and bumper. DNA belonging to Simmelink was taken from the windshield. Additional DNA evidence taken from the vehicle’s gear shift came back as a match to Ross-Morales, the affidavit says.

Court records show Judge Bernard Veljacic previously granted, without prejudice, the prosecution’s motion to exclude the theory that Simmelink died by suicide, based on medical and law enforcement reports from days prior to the incident.