After six months of delays, a man charged in a fatal high-speed crash is heading to trial court.
Following a preliminary exam Tuesday, September 20, 2022, Ashton Sauber, 22, was bound over to circuit court on a charge of reckless driving causing death, in relation to the March 4 crash that killed Jessica Kriebel in Hanover Township in southern Jackson County.
Tuesday’s hearing comes after several delays related to a prolonged competency exam Sauber underwent at the Center for Forensic Psychiatry in Saline.
Jackson County District Judge Daniel Goostrey also allowed for an additional charge of felony murder to be added in Sauber’s case.
Leading up to the crash, Sauber had been driving south on Moscow Road at speeds reaching 102 mph in a 2009 Volkswagen Beetle he had allegedly stolen, police said previously.
When he attempted to pass a semi-truck, he found himself directly in the path of a northbound vehicle.
The vehicle heading north was a 2010 Lincoln MKZ in which Kriebel was riding as a passenger, driven by her fiancée Jonah Church. Kriebel, Church and a 2-year-old boy in the backseat were on their way to Jackson to pick up a rental vehicle for the vacation they had planned, Church testified.
“A red (Volkswagen) Beetle came out into my lane, no warning, no nothing,” Church testified. “Two blinks and we were connected.”
Church attempted to avoid the crash by sharply turning right, aiming to drive the car into a field by the roadway, though he was not able to move out of Sauber’s path in time.
“It was either the field, the semi or the red Beetle — I chose field,” Church said. “(Sauber) also chose field.”
Testimony was also heard from Brandie Morse, an employee of the Pulmonary Clinics of Southern Michigan, whose Volkswagen Beetle was being driven by Sauber prior to the crash.
At about 1 p.m. the day of the crash, Morse walked out of her office to find her car was missing. Police were quick to fill her in on the situation her vehicle was involved in, though she would never see the car again.
“As soon as I spoke with law enforcement, I knew where the vehicle was,” Morse said. Both vehicles were completely totaled in the crash, Morse said.
Deputy Eric Taylor of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office was manning a stationary radar on Moscow Road when the red Beetle sped past him going nearly 100 mph in a 55 mph zone, Taylor testified.
Between the uneven terrain of the area and the high speed of the vehicle, Taylor had already lost site of the car by the time he turned around to initiate a pursuit.
“Not having a visual, I know he’s headed southbound, and then I see a cloud of dust and smoke on the left side (of the road),” Taylor said.
Sauber’s vehicle burst into flames as a result of the crash, police said. A deputy and a Hanover Township firefighter at the scene were able to pull Sauber out of the burning vehicle before the deputy freed the passengers of the other vehicle.
Kriebel later died at the hospital due to her injuries, police said. She was an avid kayaker who loved nature and outdoors, as well as everything to do with arts and crafts, according to her obituary.
Church and the 2-year-old boy in the backseat were also taken to Henry Ford Jackson Hospital. Church suffered injuries that were not life-threatening, and the child was uninjured, police said.
Sauber will appear before Jackson County Circuit Judge Thomas Wilson at a later date to begin trial proceedings.
He is currently being lodged at the Hillsdale County Jail, as he also faces a charge of unlawfully driving away in a motor vehicle relating to an incident for which he was arrested on May 16, according to court records.