Woman, 59, indicted in death of popular Chattanooga runner

photo Valerie Bray
photo Cameron Bean, 28, died after being struck by a car while running along Moccasin Bend Road. He was struck on Sept. 19 and died on Sept. 20.
A Hamilton County grand jury indicted a 59-year-old woman who police say mortally injured a Chattanooga runner when she drove into him on Moccasin Bend Road.

Valerie Bray was indicted Thursday on vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident in the September death of Cameron Bean. She has posted $75,000 bail and will appear before Criminal Court Judge Tom Greenholtz on Jan. 22.

"I was little disappointed that they went with vehicular homicide for a charge," said her attorney, Bill Speek. "This case is tragic in many ways. There was certainly the untimely loss of life of Mr. Bean, but Mrs. Bray never had intent to cause someone harm."

Police said Bray was driving on Moccasin Bend Road on Sept. 19 when she swerved into Bean as he was running against traffic along the side of the road. Two days later, Bean, 28, died from his injuries.

Bray told police she could not see Bean because of the sun in her eyes that evening. But the day afterward, Chattanooga Police Department Lt. David Gibb said, investigators returned to the Moccasin Bend Road scene around the same time of day as the accident occurred. The sun wasn't in their eyes, he said, discrediting her statement.

Investigators didn't know where Bray went after she fled the scene, Gibb said. Bray had a child in the backseat, but they didn't know the child's age. Investigators also extracted electronic information from the car, such as the weight of the passengers, whether an airbag deployed, the number of seat belts employed. But Gibb said he didn't know how fast Bray was traveling, or whether she was texting and driving at the time of the accident.

"She struck him from behind," Gibb said. "[Bean] may have heard it, but I don't think he saw it."

Bray has been cooperative since the beginning of the three-month investigation, Speek said, providing any necessary records, including her phone.

Speek described his client as a quiet, harmless "elderly" woman who had worked for at least 10 years at the Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute. Because of the indictment, Bray's job status was unclear Friday, Speek said. State representatives for the company were unavailable for comment.

In 1990 and 1991, respectively, Bray was charged with especially aggravated burglary and aggravated assault in Hamilton County Criminal Court, but those charges later were reduced to misdemeanors, court records show.

Speek said, as the case progresses, he hopes people will see that a medical condition played a role in the accident. He would not comment further on that medical condition Friday.

"There's clear civil liability in this case," he said of Bray. "But our position is she should not have been charged with vehicular homicide, given the facts and circumstances of the case as we understand it."

Bean, who ran for Baylor School and attended Samford University, was one of the top runners in the nation who specialized in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Before returning to his native city in August, he spent five years running professionally for an outfit in North Carolina. He worked at Fast Break shoe store and also operated Magnum Training, a personal coaching business to help runners and triathletes reach their full potential.

For some close to Bean, Bray's indictment brought hope that justice would be served. But it didn't bring back the victim.

"To say I'm happy about any of this is a stretch," said Alan Outlaw, who owns Fast Break Athletics. He and Bean were joking inside the store before the beloved runner left for his final workout.

"It doesn't bring anybody back," he said.

Bean's family could not be reached for comment.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson @timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347 with story ideas or tips. Follow @zackpeterson918.