BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – She told police she remembered people yelling that she was dragging a scooter behind her car. She remembered police arriving at the scene.
But 22-year-old Madelyn Howard, court documents said, initially told police she had no recollection of what caused damage to her car, a claim refuted by a passenger she’d decided to take home because he was too intoxicated to drive himself.
Howard is charged with reckless homicide, leaving the scene of an accident and causing death when operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, all felony counts, in connection with the death of 20-year-old Indiana University student Nate Stratton.
Bloomington police said Howard was behind the wheel of a car that hit and killed Stratton as he was riding a scooter on Walnut Street in the early morning hours of Sunday, Sept. 18.
Police were dispatched around 1:50 a.m. to the intersection of 12th and Walnut Street after Stratton was hit by a “dark-colored passenger car, possibly a Mercedes.” Stratton was taken to IU Health Bloomington Hospital in critical condition and died hours later.
An Indiana University police officer had made contact with a vehicle that may have been involved in the crash at 19th and Lincoln streets. A Bloomington police officer went to the location, where she found Howard and a passenger with a 2012 Mercedes C30.
The car had “heavy damage” to the windshield on the passenger side and the passenger side window, police said.
Howard told the officer she left Kilroy’s Sports at 319 N. Walnut Street and was taking a friend home because he was too intoxicated to drive. She agreed to drive him home.
Initially, Howard “refused to acknowledge being involved in an accident,” police said, and couldn’t explain what caused the damage to her car. She failed a series of field sobriety tests. Her eyes were “red and watery,” police said, and she agreed to go for a blood draw.
While Howard claimed she didn’t know what happened to her car, her passenger gave police a clearer picture of what transpired.
Howard’s passenger recalled being hit by glass from either the windshield or passenger window. He asked Howard, “Did you hit someone?”
She replied, “I think I hit somebody,” according to court documents. The passenger said he told Howard to pull over; when they stopped, someone flagged them down to tell them they had a scooter lodged underneath their car. A few people helped them dislodge the scooter before police arrived.
A security officer told police she saw Howard’s car going north on Lincoln Street and it sounded like it was dragging something. The driver stopped; she and her passenger exited the vehicle. After that, she saw a group of people tell them about the scooter and help them pull it from the back of the vehicle.
Video shared by an Uber driver showed the car turning onto 17th Street after the crash, kicking up sparks as it dragged the scooter underneath.
Howard went to IU Health Bloomington Hospital for a blood draw. The investigating officer said she “gave several different versions of how the damage to her vehicle occurred.”
A detective interviewed Howard at the Bloomington Police Department. She said the car didn’t have any damage before she went to the bar and there was no damage to the vehicle when they got in to drive home. She said she didn’t remember any accident, nor did she recall running off the road or hitting anyone, according to court documents.
She did remember turning right onto 17th Street. When asked why she’d turned there, she replied, “[it] was either because I hit something, or because I was driving to my old apartment where I used to live that is in that area.”
When pressed further after the detective pointed out those were two wildly different explanations, Howard said she’d turned onto 17th Street because she “probably hit something.”
She remembered making another left and stopping for a stop sign. She also recalled some people yelling that her car was dragging a scooter behind it. Shortly after that, police arrived at the scene.
Surveillance video from a Domino’s Pizza on Walnut Street provided investigators with their best indication of what happened. Around 1:45 a.m., Howard’s car is seen heading northbound. It appeared to be traveling much more to the right of the road than other vehicles that had gone through the area.
At least one person is seen moving very quickly off the sidewalk in order to avoid being hit by the vehicle, according to court documents. The car continues northbound past the intersection and veers into the bike lane and onto the sidewalk. Once the vehicle passes, a shoe is seen bouncing along the sidewalk, the aftermath of Howard’s car hitting Stratton.
The original 911 call came in at 1:49 a.m., records showed. IU police notified dispatchers 10 minutes later that they may have located the car involved in hitting Stratton.
Police said Howard drove over four blocks on Walnut Street after the crash, drove another two blocks east on 17th Street and then headed north on Lincoln Street for another two blocks.
“Madelyn made no attempt to remain at the scene of the accident or attempt to call 911 or notify the police of the accident,” the officer wrote in the probable cause affidavit.
Howard bonded out of the Monroe County Jail earlier this week. She has an initial hearing scheduled for Friday.