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VERNON, Ind. — Indiana authorities have brought charges against a Pennsylvania man who was injured in a crash that killed his girlfriend earlier this month, alleging that he initially tried to conceal that the crash even happened because he may have been trying to avoid being arrested.
Kevin Bell, of Dover, Pennsylvania, was found injured by the side of U.S. Route 50 on Sept. 20, three days after he and his girlfriend, Nikki K. Reed, of Seymour, Indiana, veered off the highway, down an embankment and into a tree. She was killed in the crash and he was trapped for two days, authorities said. It was her vehicle, but Bell was driving and she was in the passenger seat.
The families of Bell and Reed reported them missing on Sept. 18, the day after the crash. According to the Indiana State Police, Bell, who had a broken leg and some of his belongings with him, didn't tell the trooper who found him by the roadside about the crash or that Reed's body was still in the SUV. It wasn't until later at a hospital that Bell told police about the crash, the (Louisville) Courier-Journal reported.
Bell, 39, said he had been driving and that Reed, 37, had taken off her seatbelt and was rubbing his body when the vehicle left the road and crashed. Preliminary autopsy results found that Reed died from injuries suffered in the crash, including a broken neck and blunt-force trauma, authorities said. Foul play isn't suspected.
Bell said his broken leg limited his mobility and he couldn't find his phone or Reed's phone to make a call, according to police. He sat in the crashed vehicle for two days, drinking water and Gatorade, before crawling out the back and finding his phone on the ground, with 2 percent battery life. Bell texted "car wreck" to his boss, but according to investigators, he said he didn't know why he didn't call 911.
In a probable-cause affidavit filed in Jennings County court, authorities allege that Bell failed to contact police to report the fatality despite having cellphone access and a signal. Bell was driving on a suspended license and had an outstanding warrant for his arrest in Pennsylvania on a harassment charge, and investigators contend that this may be why he initially tried to conceal the crash.
"I believe Mr. Bell was initially deceitful and misinformed investigators during the early stages of this investigation due to his fear of incarceration as a result of his direct association in the death of (Reed)," Indiana Trooper Rick Hewitt wrote in the charging documents.
Bell was released from an Indianapolis-area hospital earlier this week. Indiana State Police spokesman Sgt. Stephen Wheeles said police are "actively trying to locate him."
His mother, Gloria Bell, told the York Daily Record on Wednesday that her son was transferred to an Indianapolis hospital, where he will be for two weeks for surgery to remove pins from his broken leg. She said the crash was an accident and that her son didn't try to kill Reed.
"I feel bad for him," she said. "I just am praying that things go well out there for him, and that the judge would show mercy on him."
There was no response to a phone message seeking comment left Thursday at his Pennsylvania home.
In addition to the driving with a suspended license charges, Bell faces counts of leaving the scene of a deadly accident, failing to report a dead body and providing false information, court records show. His bond was set at $10,000.