Investigators say alcohol likely factor in fatal crash

The Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office has identified the victim in a fatal crash in Foley Wednesday afternoon as 42-year-old Ronald Jud Ealey of Foley.  The car Ealey was driving  was struck by a pickup being driven by high speed chase suspect, Steven Little. Thursday, April 17, 2014 investigators gave more insight into what led to the deadly crash.

“He was going through shopping center parking lots and parking lots at apartment complexes at 50 and 60 miles an hour, jumping curbs.  It definitely shows an individual that was out of control and didn’t care about human life at all,” Capt. Steve Arthur with the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday.

That’s how Arthur described a portion of the dash-cam video he saw of Wednesday’s deadly high speed pursuit. Deputies began chasing 30 year old Steven Little after they say numerous complaints were called in about his erratic driving.  The pursuit ended when Little ran through a stoplight northbound on Highway 59 at Azalea Avenue and smashed into a car being driven by Foley resident Ron Ealey.  Ealey was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. Ealey was on his way home from work at the time.

“As a matter of fact, where the accident happened, he lived within just a block or two,” Arthur said.

Ealey worked at a convenience store at the corner of County Roads 65 and 12 for nearly four years and customers and co-workers alike were shocked to hear the tragic news.

“He was a real gentleman…a nice man,” said one of his regular customers.

“He was a great guy.  He really liked to cut up, joke you know, just really funny with everybody and everybody loved him,” said co-worker, Cheryl Myrick.

Coworkers at the Town and Country Chevron are now taking donations in the store for Ealey’s family.

“He didn’t have any life insurance so we’re just trying to help to raise some money for his funeral,” Myrick said.

The suspect lives with his girlfriend in a campground behind the Summerdale Flea Market. Fox 10 went there to try and talk to her about what happened, but she wasn’t home.  Neighbors  said the couple has only lived there a couple of weeks.

“I didn’t really know him that good, but you see someone one day and the next day then something like this happens.  You just never expect it,” said neighbor, Rhonda Johnson.

“He seemed fine.  He was ready for work.  He was fine.  He had went to the food pantry yesterday.  Everything was normal.  Everything was fine,” another neighbor said.

Investigators told a different story.  They said Little showed obvious signs of being under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident.

“The officers that initially aprehended him said that they could smell what appeared to be an alcoholic beverage emmitting from his person,” Arthur said.

One lingering question many have is, ‘Why did deputies continue their pursuit and could this accident have been avoided if they had called it off?’

“We got numerous, numerous phone calls about his behavior before law enforcement ever got involved.  People were concerned that his driving action was going to cause an accident or possibly kill someone, quoting some of the individuals that called into dispatch, so we were following policies and proceedures and we felt like they were within operating guidelines of that,” Arthur responded.

The investigation is ongoing.  Officers from the Alabama State Troopers and Foley Police Department’s Accident Reconstruction Unit were back on the scene Thursday piecing together exactly what happened. Steven Little is in the Baldwin County Jail awaiting a bond hearing, possibly Friday, April 18. He’s currently chaqrged with manslaughter, but those charges could  be elevated after a Grand Jury takes a look at all of the facts.

Investigators said that Little was released from a Tennessee prison on a meth manufacturing sentence in 2012.  They said he’s since had a DUI and had his drivers license revoked.  Arthur said he told deputies at the time of his arrest Wednesday that he ran because he didn’t want to go back to prison.

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