By Ed Runyan
The Ohio State Highway Patrol says it believes the vehicle that hit pedestrian Antoinette M. Ross, 55, of Hunt Club Trail in Howland late Sunday or early Monday went into the roadside ditch where her body was found.
Investigators believe they have identified the vehicle and driver responsible for hitting her on King Graves Road near Howland Wilson Road, killing her instantly.
But decisions on whether the person will face criminal charges are pending completion of DNA and other forensic testing, said Lt. Brian Holt of the Southington Post.
“We won’t charge until we have all of that information compiled,” Holt said.
Holt said he could not say whether the woman’s death is related to a one-vehicle crash that Howland police investigated about 10 p.m. Sunday in that same area. He said he is also unable to pinpoint a time of the fatality.
A man who lives near the area where the woman’s body was found, however, said what he knows of the 10 p.m. crash Howland police investigated — and the location of the body — make it pretty clear that the two incidents are linked.
Ross was hit between 9 p.m. Sunday and 8 a.m. Monday, the highway patrol said.
Investigators are “still working” to answer questions about why the woman was walking along the roadway at that time of night and whether she was safely off the road and out of the driving area, Holt said.
She was about a mile from home, but it’s not known whether she walked that far or got there some other way, Holt said.
No one had reported her missing.
King Graves Road in that area is not a good place to walk, Holt said.
The Vindicator learned of the location where the woman’s body was found after talking to a King Graves Road resident who saw the body early Monday, after seeing a garbage truck worker in his driveway and learning that the worker had spotted the body in a nearby ditch.
The area has about a 1-foot berm of pavement on each side of the road beside the white line designating the outer part of the driving lane.
The road drops off into the ditch where the woman’s body was found.
Few people walk on the road, though a few joggers use it, the King Graves man said.
When cars come, joggers usually find a way to get into a yard to avoid them, he said.
“This is just not a road for that,” he said of walking, especially in the dark and with the icy road conditions present that night.
At 10 p.m., the man and his wife heard a “thud, thud, crash” noise, then another crash noise. Then he saw a car in the ditch near where he saw the body the next morning.
The resident went to get boots on, but by the time he was ready to go outside, the car had moved farther down the street, and Howland police were there, he said, so he stayed inside.
Eventually the car was placed on a tow truck and hauled away, the resident said.
At 8 a.m., he asked the garbage truck worker if he had stopped because he was broken down, and the worker said no. He had spotted a body.
Tire tracks in the ditch suggest the car went off the road 100 feet or more before the spot where the body was found, then got out of the ditch and continued along the edge of the road 100 yards or more before stopping, the resident said.
“I felt extremely bad in the morning,” the man said. “I said, ‘I should have gone outside.’”
Ross previously worked as a nurse at Howland Glen Elementary School, The Vindicator’s broadcast partner, 21 WFMJ-TV has reported.
John Diehl, coach of the Howland High School girls basketball team, said Antoinette Ross is the mother of one of his players, Lexi Ross.
He said of Antoinette Ross: “She was a great supporter of the team, never said a bad word [and] always asked what she could do to help. She was the perfect parent.”