Oakland Twp. woman arraigned in fatal hit-and-run on New Year's Day
Rochester Hills — An Oakland Township woman was arraigned on a felony charge Friday in connection to a fatal hit-and-run that killed a Michigan State University senior on New Year's Day.
Tubtim “Sue” Howson, 57, fled to Thailand two days after the crash, authorities have said. She was arraigned Friday morning in 52-3 District Court in Rochester Hills before Judge Lisa Asadoorian on one count of failure to stop at the scene of an accident resulting in death.
Howson allegedly struck 22-year-old Ben Kable with her vehicle around 5:49 a.m. on Jan. 1 while on Rochester Road, south of Whims Lane. Kable, a Shelby Township resident, was going home after attending a New Year's Eve party and was kicked out of an Uber for an unknown reason shortly before the accident. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
A witness who saw the hit-and-run and the Oakland County Sheriff's office was able to get a description of the vehicle and driver. A tip led investigators to Howson, who lives near the crash scene. She has dual citizenship in the United States and Thailand and flew one way to Bangkok on Jan. 3.
Howson was driving to work at the time of the crash and thought she had hit a deer, she said at a news conference in Thailand in February. She also said she tried to call the police but didn't due to shock.
Howson went to Thailand to see her husband, who travels for work, her attorney Jalal Dallo said at the hearing. She left in a panic because she didn't know what to do, he said.
"She went to go see him (her husband), she needed comfort, support, she didn't know what to do, she doesn't perhaps, understand the laws here in the United States. ... She wasn't leaving to hide or escape," Dallo said. "She was scared, she panicked. The panic has subsided, that's over now."
Howson's husband returned to the United States and spoke with deputies on Jan. 5. The Oakland County Sheriff's office worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Marshals and law enforcement in Thailand to locate Howson, who voluntarily returned to the United States in February. Howson reached out to the Thai authorities to arrange her return to the United States, Dallo said.
Howson faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 if convicted. A probable cause conference is scheduled at 11:30 a.m. March 24 and a preliminary examination hearing is scheduled at 10 a.m. April 6.
Oakland County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Andrea Ajlouni requested that bond be denied or set at $5 million, citing concerns that Howson not only fled the crash scene but also the country to avoid prosecution.
"Not only is she an extreme flight risk, she fled, in the people's theory, to avoid prosecution," Ajlouni said. "There was a death and it doesn't necessarily fall in a violent felony, however, in the category of leaving the scene causing a death this is under the category of crimes against a person."
Dallo argued that since Howson's Thai and American passports and driver's license have been taken away and her family is with her now to provide support, she is not a flight risk.
Howson has been employed at Whole Foods for 11 years and has been living in Michigan for 12 years with no criminal history, Dallo said. Howson's husband and one of her two sons were present at the arraignment hearing.
The court may deny pretrial release for defendants charged with murder or treason or charged with a violent felony while being on probation, parole, release pending trial for another violent felony or having already been convicted of two or more violent felonies, Asadoorian said.
While being struck by a car is a violent act and could be interpreted as a violent felony, none of the other conditions needed to deny Howson bond were met, Asadoorian said. She set the bond at $1 million cash or surety with the condition that if Howson posts the bond she will wear a GPS tether and be on house arrest, with no exceptions for work or medical appointments. She is also ordered to not possess or consume alcohol or contact the Kable family.
"A day or two into this new year you left your home, you left this court's jurisdiction, you left Michigan, you left the United States, you bought a one-way ticket and traveled 8,000 miles away to another continent," Asadoorian said. "If that shows anything it shows you did run, maybe out of panic. ... I don't know if you're done panicking."
Kable was a senior at MSU when he died, finishing his degree in electrical engineering. His father, Michael Kable, said he was hoping for no bond but trusts the justice process. Knowing that Howson does not have her passports gives him some comfort.
"I'm just happy to see that justice is finally here. And things are moving forward," Kable said. "It's very difficult when you lose a child. Obviously, it's the worst thing you can go through and we're still dealing with it. ... It's an emotional roller coaster and we still got a few hills left."