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Drunken driver tried to blame friend killed in crash, police say
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Drunken driver tried to blame friend killed in crash, police say

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MOROCCO — A Crown Point man facing drunken driving charges in a deadly Jan. 12 crash near Morocco initially tried to pin the wreck on his friend, newly released court documents show.

Andrew Kepchar, 29, faces charges of causing a death when operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, a level 4 felony, and reckless driving at an unreasonable speed, a misdemeanor, according to Newton County court documents. 

Thomas Richardson, 30, of Morocco, was identified as the vehicle passenger who died as a result of the crash, police said.

State trooper Brian Runyon responded about 9 p.m. Jan. 12 to a single-vehicle crash along County Road 400 West near Morocco, according to Indiana State Police.

A preliminary investigation found Kepchar's Silverado left the roadway and struck a utility pole, rolled onto its passenger side and caught fire, police said. 

When Runyon arrived, the power lines were knocked down at the scene, hindering first responders' ability to access the vehicle.

While waiting on the utility company to arrive, Kepchar allegedly came up to Runyon and said it was his truck on fire. 

"He stated that he was a passenger in his truck because he had been drinking and didn't want to drive. He stated that his friend ... was driving," Runyon wrote in charging documents. 

Kepchar claimed he attempted to get Richardson out of the vehicle, but ran away once he noticed the truck had caught fire, records state. While on scene, Kepchar was taken to an ambulance to get checked out.

It took Runyon no time at all to piece together the alleged lies in Kepchar's story once he noticed markings on the left side of Kepchar's neck from a seatbelt, indicating he was the driver, and not a passenger, police said. 

"I went into the ambulance a short time later and saw a mark on the left side of Kepchar's neck. I asked him to remove his shirt to which he did. I then asked him how he got the marks on the left side of his neck and chest. He stated that it was from the seatbelt. I then asked why the seatbelt marks were on his left side if (he) was the passenger. Marks from the passenger seat would be on the right side. Kepchar then stated that he was driving," Runyon wrote. 

Kepchar refused transport to the hospital and a field sobriety test, saying he was "told not to do so." 

Runyon then informed him Indiana's implied consent law, which requires that persons arrested on suspicion of drunken driving are giving "implied consent" to a chemical test, records state. 

Kepchar was taken to Franciscan Hospital of Rensselaer, where he consented to a certified blood test for alcohol consumption, police said. 

The results of that blood draw are pending.

Kepchar was then arrested and transported to the Newton County Jail. 

The crash remains under investigation by the Indiana State Police's Crash Reconstruction Team. 

The Indiana State Police were assisted at the scene by the Newton County Sheriff’s Department, Newton County Coroner’s Office, Morocco Fire Department, Newton County EMS, Morocco Police Department, Village Motors, and Newton County REMC.

Gallery: Recent arrests booked into Lake County Jail

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North Lake County Reporter

Lauren covers North Lake County government, breaking news, crime and environmental issues for The Times. She holds a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting from UIS. Contact her at lauren.cross@nwi.com or 219-933-3206.

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