Plea hearing postponed in alleged manslaughter case

By Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer October 29, 2012 03:04 pm

Elgin resident charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in connection with highway worker’s death in February

A plea hearing scheduled for a man charged with second degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in the death of a Union County highway worker has been postponed. 

Harold “J.R.” Fruitts, who was arrested after he allegedly struck and killed John E. Rysdam III with a vehicle near Elgin Feb. 28, had been scheduled to enter a plea Oct. 23. The plea hearing in Union County Circuit Court was postponed until Dec. 4 at the request of Fruitts’ attorney, J. Robert Moon of Baker City. Moon asked for the postponement on the grounds that the case is a complex one.

Rysdam was killed in a roadside crash on Palmer Junction Road a half mile north of Elgin. The Union County Sheriff’s Office said Rysdam, 60, was hit by a pickup truck being driven south by Fruitts. The mishap occurred shortly after 1:30 p.m. Feb. 28 as Fruitts came upon a maintenance crew on the road.

Rysdam was a 20-year Union County Public Works employee who worked in the Imbler district. 

Fruitts, an Elgin resident, was subsequently charged with manslaughter in the second degree and criminally negligent homicide in connection with Rysdam’s death. He was also charged with three counts of recklessly endangering another person.

The reckless endangerment counts allege that Fruitts engaged in conduct that created a risk of injury to three other county workers who were on the scene.

Fruitts is free on bail.