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Driver involved in deadly police chase charged

September 25, 2013
The motorist who allegedly fled from a Marengo police officer last month resulting in a crash that killed his passenger has been charged with three felonies, including reckless homicide.

Crawford County Prosecutor Cheryl Hillenburg filed the charges — Class B felony resisting law enforcement, Class C felony reckless homicide and Class D felony operating a vehicle while privileges are suspended as an habitual traffic violator — against Robert Michael Banet, 44, of Leavenworth, on Aug. 20.

The incident occurred on Aug. 16, when Banet, who was driving a tan 1991 GMC pickup with defective taillights, allegedly failed to stop and began traveling at a high speed when Marengo Marshal James Harrington activated the overhead emergency lights on his patrol car.

According to the affidavit for probable cause, Harrington followed the vehicle on Old Water Street toward its intersection with Meridian Street and Valeene Road, where Banet failed to stop at the stop sign and turned north onto Meridian Street/Valeene Road. The narrow and curvy road is well-traveled with a 40-mph speed limit prior to leaving the town limits.

"After observing this, I activated my patrol car's siren and advised Crawford County Dispatch that I was in pursuit of said vehicle," Harrington said. "As I was attempting to stop said vehicle, I noticed that I was traveling approximately 90 miles per hour, and I estimated that said vehicle was about 200 feet in front of me.

"I then briefly lost sight of said vehicle prior to me cresting a hill about one mile north of the Marengo town limits, and after cresting said hill I noticed that the vehicle had collided with a tree."

Harrington said the tree was on the west side of the road, meaning Banet would have had to have crossed the center line and into the path of potential oncoming traffic.

Banet's passenger, Jeannine Marie Farrell, 56, of Mauckport, was pronounced dead at the scene by the Crawford County Coroner's Office. Harrington noted she was wearing a seatbelt.

Harrington also noted that, upon Banet being removed from the vehicle, he smelled a strong odor of alcohol on Banet's breath. Banet was airlifted to University of Louisville Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

According to the affidavit, Banet's operator's license had been indefinitely suspended as of April 5, 2010.

Banet was arrested on Aug. 27 and taken to the Crawford County Jail, where he is being held on $75,000 full cash bond.

Harrington, who had requested a two-week leave of absence, is back on duty.

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