Police seek Pahoa man for negligent homicide

  • JUSTIN JAMES CLARK

Police are seeking the public’s assistance to locate a 32-year-old Pahoa man wanted on multiple bench warrants, including one for negligent homicide.

Justin James Clark is described as 6-feet-3-inches tall, 180 pounds, with a slim build, light complexion and light brown hair. He’s known to frequent Puna and Hilo, police said.

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Clark was indicted Oct. 17 for a traffic crash that occurred on Jan. 5, 2017, on Highway 130 near Pahoa between Leilani Avenue and Malama Street.

The collision killed Michael Simmons, 37, of O’Brien, Ore., and injured four other people, including Clark.

The indictment charges Clark with first-degree negligent homicide for the death of Simmons, alleging Clark drove “in a negligent manner while under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” plus three counts of first-degree negligent injury.

The alleged negligent injury victims are identified in the document as Jessica Simmons, Malama Gedarro and a minor whose initials are “T.J.”

The bench warrant on those charges sets bail at $60,000.

Simmons was a passenger in a pickup truck driven by Barbara Phillips, then 74, of Pahoa.

First-degree negligent homicide is a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment upon conviction, while first-degree negligent injury is a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Phillips was indicted for second-degree negligent homicide and three counts of first-degree negligent injury. Both offenses are Class C felonies.

In a deal with prosecutors, Phillips pleaded no contest on March 18 to third-degree negligent homicide and three counts of second-degree negligent injury, all misdemeanors.

Phillips is scheduled to be sentenced at 8 a.m. May 2 before Hilo Circuit Judge Henry Nakamoto. She’s free on $8,000 bail.

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Clark filed suit against Phillips on Jan. 3, alleging Phillips made an illegal U-turn which caused Clark to broadside her pickup with his van. He’s seeking unspecified monetary damages, claiming he continues to suffer from injuries sustained in the collision and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the crash.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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