EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

December 12, 2012

Driver in hit-run said he thought he hit deer

METHUEN – After picking up his dry cleaning, John F.J. Sullivan was driving west on Pelham Street when he heard a “thump,” and thought he hit a deer, he told police.

Minutes later, after driving north to the mall in Salem, N.H., Sullivan saw that his windshield was cracked and his front right headlight was smashed. In a statement to police, the 46-year-old Methuen man wrote, “I figured I might have hit a person because of the extent of the damage.”

Sullivan, of 23 Laurel Ave., drove to back to Methuen, to the police department, and asked if he’d struck someone. Police told him he had and the elderly victim, Manok Leach, was critically injured.

Sullivan, a former news editor at The Eagle-Tribune and most recently The Salem News, is charged with hitting Leach, 70, as she tried to cross Pelham Street at Mystic Street at 5:36 p.m. Tuesday and then leaving the scene of the accident.

Witnesses reported seeing the woman fly into the air after she was hit. Another driver thought someone had tossed a garbage bag back out of a car, before realizing a pedestrian was hit and lying in the street, she told police.

Leach, of 22 Mystic St., suffered a shattered pelvis, brain bleeding and other internal injuries as a result of being hit by Sullivan’s 2002 Toyota Camry, a prosecutor said yesterday. Manok’s late husband, Richard Leach, was hit by a car in the same area six years ago.

She was dressed in a black down jacket, jeans and gray shoes as she tried to cross Pelham Street, Sullivan’s defense attorney said.

Judge Michael Brooks released Sullivan on personal recognizance at his arraignment in Lawrence District Court yesterday morning. Brooks rebuffed a request by Prosecutor Kelleen Forlizzi to set Sullivan’s bail at $10,000 and bar him from driving while the case is pending.

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