WESTFIELD -A city motorist reportedly struck a bicyclist with his unregistered vehicle, got out of his car to look at the victim lying on the roadway, fled the scene of the crash and stashed this car at his mother’s house before he apparently fled to the sanctuary of a Springfield substance abuse rehabilitation facility.
The man was held in lieu of $5,000 cash bail at his arraignment Tuesday.
City police responded to multiple calls at 1:47 p.m. on May 15 reporting that a car had struck a bicyclist on East Mountain Road. The responding officers found the cyclist to be seriously injured and that the motorist (subsequently identified as Justin M. Welch, 33, of 135 Springdale Road) had left the area. The bicyclist, a Paper Mill Road resident, was taken by ambulance to Baystate Medical Center with serious injuries. Recently, police reported that he is out of danger but is still recovering in hospital.
Officer Charles Kielbasa reports in a court document “Welch initially stopped and is seen by witnesses and video walking from his vehicle up to the victim. Welch was photographed standing near the victim. Welch then left the scene without making his identity known. Welch returned to his residence where he subsequently attempted to hide the vehicle by parking it to the rear of his Mother’s home and covering with a tarp.”
Photographs of the suspect car and of the suspect were posted on a social media page maintained by the city’s Detective Bureau and police report that neighbors quickly identified the suspect. In addition, the neighbors reported that the car, which was usually parked in his driveway, was covered with a tarp and parked behind the house.
Although the suspect had been identified, police were unable to immediately locate him. In his court filing, Kielbasa reports “Welch ignored messages to contact the Police in this matter and has not been located. It was learned that Welch has possibly checked into a rehabilitation facility in Springfield for Substance abuse issues.” Kielbasa found that the registration of Welch’s 2014 Volkswagen Passat had been revoked for lack of insurance since September, 2019, and had expired in March, 2021. He found that it had not been inspected since the inspection had expired in November, 2019.
Welch appeared in Westfield District Court on Tuesday before Judge Charles Groce. He was arraigned on a charge of leaving the scene of personal injury, an offense which, upon conviction, carries penalties of “imprisonment for not less than 6 months, not more than 2 years; and not less than $500, not more than $1000 (fine).”
In addition, Welch was arraigned on several vehicular charges – operating an uninsured motor vehicle, operating an unregistered motor vehicle, operating a motor vehicle with suspended registration, operating a motor vehicle without a valid inspection sticker and a passing violation.
Welch was held in lieu of $5,000 cash bail and Groce ordered that, if bail is posted, Welch would be fitted with a GPS monitoring device before release.
Welch is due back in court for a pre-trial hearing on June 30.