Man indicted in death of road department employee

By By Bill Rautenstrauch The Observer August 10, 2012 09:55 am
An Elgin man was arrested Friday after being indicted on charges of manslaughter in the second degree, criminally negligent homicide and recklessly endangering another person in connection with a February traffic crash that killed a Union County road department employee.


Union County District Attorney Tim Thompson said Friday that Harold A. Fruitts, Jr. also known as J.R. Fruitts, turned himself in after being notified there was a warrant for his arrest. He had been indicted Wednesday by a Union County grand jury following a lengthy investigation.

The charges stem from a crash Feb. 28 in which Fruitts hit and killed John E. Rysdam III while driving a vehicle on Palmer Junction Road a half mile north of Elgin. Rysdam, 60, was an employee of the Union County Public Works Department and was working on Palmer Junction road at the time of the crash.

Thompson said the charges of recklessly endangering another person relate to three other public works employees who were present. Thompson said the investigation was done by the Union County Sheriff’s Office with the assistance of the Oregon State Police.

Manslaughter in the second degree and criminally negligent homicide are both Class B felonies which carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Under Oregon’s Ballot Measure 11, manslaughter in the second degree also carries a minimum penalty of 75 months in prison with no early parole.

Additionally, $50,000 bail is required unless a court finds that the amount is unconstitutionally high in regards to a particular defendant.

Recklessly endangering another person is a Class A misdemeanor with a maximum of one year in jail and a $6,250 fine.

Jared Boyd of the DA’s office said Friday he can’t yet release specific details as to the reasons why the indictment was handed down, except to say the circumstances of the crash “went beyond a mere accident.”

Fruitts was arraigned Friday in Union County Circuit Court. Judge Russell West set bail at $50,000.