GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A man accused of reckless driving in a hit-and-run that killed a beloved Grand Rapids couple will face a jury.
The suspect, Jason McCann, is facing 15 years in prison. He was charged with four felonies in the deadly crash where he allegedly ran a stop sign downtown, hitting Todd Fuhr and Tracy Curtis Fuhr.
In court Tuesday, it was expected he was going to plead guilty as charged, but somewhere between the jailhouse and the courthouse, 44-year-old McCann changed his mind.
After the hearing, three longtime friends of the couple, who filled a row in the Kent County Circuit Courtroom Gallery, were frustrated and now face the trauma of a trial.
“We will never forget them, and I think with all this, we just need closure. We just need to end it because it isn’t ending,” Denise Szczepaniuk said.
The crash happened Oct. 19 as the 56-year-old couple, who were Grand Rapids Griffins season ticket holders, were doing one of their favorite things, attending activities downtown.
They were hit by a car while walking across Oakes Street SW at Grandville Avenue when Grand Rapids police say McCann was driving west on Oakes and went through a stop sign at Grandville.
He allegedly hit the couple, who were in the crosswalk, with a 2010 Ford Taurus and drove away from the scene only to be arrested the next day, thanks to tips police received from witnesses and physical evidence found on the vehicle.
“If he stopped, you have a remorse. It’s like, oh my God, but when you go on and leave them there and they’re dead, it wasn’t like a knee, their bodies were mangled,” Szczepaniuk said.
The friends who came to court hoping for an ending — one who has known Tracy since elementary school, another who was in the couple’s wedding — have watched as the suspect has made his way through the system.
“He rolled his eyes at the judge his first time on TV like a couple days after and he just shook his head. If he’d been remorseful, those would have been the times to show it,” said Rean Amato, a friend of the couple. “Hopefully the community will come around and support this tragedy and give us a lot of closure for Todd and Tracy.”
Amoto was in Tracy and Todd’s wedding and was looking forward to visiting them after they moved to Tennessee to start a new chapter in their lives.
“Now I have to wait to go to heaven to visit her,” Amato said.
“I went to grade school and graduated with Tracy and I have been in her life ever since,” said friend Denise Chamberlin.
“We were talking about growing old together,” Szczepaniuk said. “There was no saying goodbye to somebody. There was no illness. It was one day you’re laughing with somebody and the next day I get a phone call and they’re gone.”
The crash killed the couple on impact, throwing their bodies yards from the point of impact.
“This is just so horrific, and it’s just been so difficult. I mean, there isn’t a day we don’t talk to them going around our house. I play music that reminds me of Todd and Tracy,” Amato said.
They see the failure to take a plea as just another example of the suspect’s lack of remorse.
“If he could just show some remorse, (it) might help give us some kind of empathy for him. I feel sorry for the people in his life, but I feel like he’s made bad decisions before,” Amato said.
McCann has multiple drunken driving arrests on his record and spent time in jail for the offenses.
“Even Jason, his life is ruined. His family’s life is ruined,” Szczepaniuk said.
The friends struggle as they remember the good things.
“They were larger than life, they were full of life, they enjoyed everyone,” Amato said. “I just play it in my head over and over and since they were taken so tragically, it’s been really, really difficult to get over.”
*Correction: Previous versions of this article mischaracterized McCann’s criminal history and misstated the Fuhrs’ ages. We regret the errors, which have been corrected.