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Aug. 16, 2022

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Vancouver man faces vehicular homicide in January fatal hit-and-run in Hazel Dell

Joseph A. Rachauskas faces other charges in both Oregon and Washington

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

A Vancouver man, who has multiple warrants out of Oregon and Southwest Washington, appeared Friday in Clark County Superior Court in connection with a January fatal hit-and-run crash in Hazel Dell.

Joseph A. Rachauskas, 47, is facing charges of vehicular homicide, possession of a stolen motor vehicle and hit-and-run resulting in death. He also appeared on two other new Clark County cases, charging him with identity theft, forgery and possession of stolen property. He also has warrants for failing to appear in two pending Clark County cases, in addition to warrants out of Multnomah County, Ore., and Clackamas County, Ore.

Court records show he also has addresses in Portland and Gresham, Ore.

Judge John Fairgrieve increased Rachauskas’ bail in the pending Clark County cases and ordered his total bail on the five local cases be set at $555,000. Rachauskas is scheduled to be arraigned on the new charges June 3.

Emergency responders with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, Clark County Fire District 6 and AMR were dispatched shortly before 1 p.m. Jan. 23 to a two-vehicle serious injury hit-and-run crash at Northeast 88th Street and Highway 99.

Deputies determined a 2005 Ford F-250 was traveling south on Highway 99 when it went through a red light at 88th Street and struck an eastbound 2013 Mercedes sedan. The pickup was reported stolen out of Washington County, Ore., the Clark County Sheriff’s Office said.

The driver of the Mercedes, identified as William Stevens, 52, of Vancouver, was extricated from the car and taken to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, where he died from his injuries. The driver of the pickup ran from the scene; a search for the man was unsuccessful.

Fingerprints from the steering wheel of the pickup returned as a match for Rachauskas, according to a probable cause affidavit. Investigators also noted a strong odor of marijuana coming from the truck.

Rachauskas’ probation officer in Multnomah County said Rachauskas was supposed to check in with him Jan. 24, but Rachauskas texted him that he couldn’t make it because he had to go to the emergency room, the affidavit says.

Court records state a search of Rachauskas’ phone showed in the days after the crash he searched phrases such as, “car accident Vancouver Hazel Dell,” “OHSU and Doernbecher emergency room,” “What’s the average sentence for vehicular homicide” and “Are there any traffic cameras at the intersection of 88th Avenue and Highway 99 Hazel Dell.”

His phone also showed he was in the area of the intersection at the time of the crash and that it began downloading files just before the crash. The affidavit states that might indicate Rachauskas was distracted by his phone when he crashed.

Video surveillance showed the man running from the crash and into an apartment complex on 88th Street. Rachauskas’ phone’s location showed it was at the complex for about 50 minutes; during that time, several calls and texts were exchanged with multiple phone, court records state.

Investigators also found messages between Rachauskas and a friend who came to pick him up. The affidavit states the friend sent, “I’m in the Mercedes cops all over you need out??”

When a K-9 unit searched for the suspect after the crash, the officer said he thought he saw the suspect inside of a white Mercedes. Police weren’t able to locate it again, court records say.

Local police agencies located Rachauskas on Wednesday in the Fred Meyer parking lot at 7700 N.E. Highway 99 and arrested him.

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