A Toledo man charged with manslaughter for allegedly striking and killing a man and injuring another along Highway 20 in Philomath on Saturday denied the allegations in court on Tuesday.
Authorities say the defendant, Ricky Ray Ferguson, was under the influence of controlled substances when he crossed the fog line and struck two men who were volunteering to pick up trash along the highway. The crash killed 70-year-old Robert James Ozretich and seriously injured 85-year-old Allan Edward Deutsch, both Corvallis residents.
Ferguson, 54, left the scene of the crash and removed decals from his truck in an effort to change its appearance, authorities allege. He was arrested four hours later at a store about 12 miles west on Highway 20.
In addition to first-degree manslaughter, Ferguson is charged with second-degree assault, failure to perform duties of a driver to injured persons, driving under the influence of intoxicants, reckless driving and tampering with physical evidence.
He faces a minimum of 15 years and 10 months in prison if convicted.
Ferguson appeared in Benton County Circuit Court via video conferencing from the jail. Judge Matthew Donohue appointed Corvallis attorney Clark Willes to represent Ferguson. Willes entered not guilty pleas to all charges on his client's behalf.
Donohue imposed $1 million security in the case.
Ozretich’s son, Reed Ozretich, spoke at the arraignment hearing. He said his father was in good health and likely would have lived for decades longer if not for Saturday's incident.
Reed Ozretich said his father was a good, decent man who was active in his church and in the community. His father “deserved many more years of happiness and opportunities to serve,” Reed said.
“Your victim, Mr. Ferguson, was a loving, vibrant, powerful man who is so very much loved by so many,” Reed said.
Ferguson spoke only to answer questions from the judge and his attorney during the hearing.
According to a probable cause affidavit filed in the case, Ozretich and Deutsch were wearing orange traffic vests and carrying yellow garbage bags when Ferguson drove into them. Ozretich and Deutsch were on the south side of the highway. The affidavit states that there is a space of about 4 feet between the south side fog line and the edge of the road.
“This leaves plenty of room for pedestrians to walk along the roadway while traffic passes by,” the affidavit states.
Deputies say the suspect’s truck, a white Ford F250, was traveling east on the highway approaching Newton Street when it crossed over the fog line and collided with Ozretich and Deutsch at about 10:27 a.m. The men were thrown into the ditch, according to the affidavit.
Parts of the truck, including the passenger side mirror housing and pieces of the grill, were found in the south side ditch, the affidavit states. The Ford’s passenger tires went into the ditch, leaving tire marks to Newton Street, a distance about 50 feet, according to the affidavit.
Deutsch was taken to Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, where he required surgery for a brain bleed, the affidavit states. Detectives spoke with Deutsch at the hospital. He said he and Ozretich had been on the shoulder of the highway. Deutsch said he didn’t remember the crash.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Ryan Joslin said Tuesday that Deutsch has permanent and severe brain damage. A Good Samaritan spokesperson said Deutsch was in fair condition.
Deputies were ultimately able to locate Ferguson after multiple citizens reported seeing his truck, according to the affidavit. Officers responded to Fern Road and milepost 2 after a woman reported seeing a white pickup parked on the side of the road with a man in the bed of the truck removing decals from the rear window, the affidavit states. Deputies found fresh tire marks, but the truck was gone. They also found yellow car decals.
Officers responded to a Starker Forest gate on Priest Road after a woman reported seeing the truck there. The truck was gone but deputies continued west on Highway 20 and found Ferguson’s truck at Blodgett Country Store, according to the affidavit. The truck had damage to the front passenger side. The hood had been removed and placed in the bed of the truck, as had part of the passenger side mirror, the affidavit states. The truck had marks on the back window where decals had recently been removed.
When a deputy asked Ferguson if the truck was his, Ferguson said, “I fell asleep,” according to the affidavit. Police took Ferguson to the Law Enforcement Center, where he told a sergeant he thought he hit a trash bag where the crash occurred, the affidavit says. Ferguson declined to speak further with law enforcement and requested a lawyer.
Court records show Ferguson has a 2008 conviction in Lincoln County for driving while under the influence of intoxicants. In 2007, Ferguson was convicted in Lincoln County for possession of a controlled substance and reckless driving. He was convicted twice in 2005 in Lincoln County for operating a vehicle without driving privileges.