UPDATE: Magistrate Kela Spence denied Mitchell Taylor Horton a bond this weekend. He remains at the Walker County Jail.
ORIGINAL STORY: The man accused of running over a stranger and driving away planned to flee to California as police closed in, a state trooper said Friday.
Mitchell Taylor Horton, facing charges of hit and run and homicide by vehicle, allegedly told a "companion" he needed to get out of town. On Jan. 30, according to the Georgia State Patrol, Horton lost command of a friend's Hyundai Sonata on North Marble Top Road in Chickamauga, Ga. He allegedly crossed into a front yard and hit Horace Cribbs, who had been trimming the grass. Cribbs died.
Cpl. Scotty Smith testified during a bond hearing Friday that investigators found the car the next day, covered in sheets and tarps behind a woman's house on Kristen Drive. The woman called the sheriff's office to say she had found the vehicle. Smith said the woman showed them a text message from Horton, promising to come back to get the car.
Later, Smith said, another woman told investigators that Horton planned to hide in California. But the evening of Jan. 31, Chattanooga police officers stopped Horton in a car. Smith said he tried to run away.
During the hearing, Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Deanna Reisman argued that Horton should remain at the Walker County Jail because he tried to flee before his arrest. Plus, she said, Horton has consistently run into the law while out on bond over the past year.
He was arrested in July and August in Hamilton County, each time on possession of methamphetamine and possession of marijuana. In December, an officer in Walker County stopped Horton for allegedly failing to maintain lane on U.S. Route 27.
The officer arrested him again, saying he found methamphetamine and marijuana in Horton's car.
"He is a huge danger to the community," Reisman said.
Horton's attorney, Sam Robinson, argued his client deserves to be treated now similarly to how he was treated in December, when a magistrate gave him a $5,000 bond. He said Horton already had two pending charges at the time. Robinson did not address the fact that Horton is now facing a homicide charge, other than to say prosecutors have not proven anything.
"It's asking too much at this time, to get a second bite at the apple now that his new case has been set," Robinson said.
Magistrate Kela Spence did not set a bond at the hearing, telling attorneys she would make a ruling Friday night or this morning. She had not made a decision as of press time.
After Horton's arrest two weeks ago, Spence set a bond of $10,000 Feb. 3. When Cribbs' family learned about the bond, they complained to prosecutors. The district attorney's office, in turn, asked the magistrate's office to revoke the bond.
District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin told the Times Free Press that the first bond was a mistake. Chief Magistrate Shelia Thompson, in turn, said Franklin's office should have alerted Spence that they believed Horton was a flight risk before his first appearance hearing. Horton didn't get out on the $10,000 bond anyway.
As officers escorted Horton out of the room Friday, Jennifer Hicks held up two framed photos of Cribbs. Hicks is his former sister-in-law.
"This is who he killed: a wonderful man," she said. "A man who took care of his family. A man who didn't care about anything but his family."