Pedestrian death in Howland still under investigation

SOUTHINGTON – The investigation into the December crash in Howland that may have caused the death of a pedestrian remains ongoing.

Lt. Brian Holt, commander of the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Warren Post in Southington, said Thursday that evidence collected is still being analyzed at the state crime lab.

Officials have said Patrick Niess, 20, of Warren, who apparently fell asleep at the wheel and crashed on King Graves Road the night of Dec. 8, “most likely” caused the death of pedestrian Antoinette Ross, 55, of Howland. Her body was found in a ditch along the road the next morning.

Patrol reports indicate that Niess apparently fell asleep and drove off the north side of the roadway. He went into a ditch and struck a culvert and traffic sign before coming to a rest some 600 feet west of where Ross’ body was discovered the morning of Dec. 9 by a local trash collector.

The patrol has said that they believe Ross was hit by a vehicle between 9 p.m. Dec. 8 and 8 a.m. Dec. 9.

Holt previously said that if the testing concludes that Niess’ vehicle did not strike Ross, two separate crash reports will be completed, exonerating Niess. However, if the results conclude his vehicle struck Ross, the OSHP will consult the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office for possible charges, Holt said.

He said that in either case officials are certain Niess did not realize that he he hit Ross.

Niess was wearing a seat belt and suffered no injuries from the accident. He was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the initial investigation, officials reported.

While the patrol reports Niess’ accident “was most likely that which struck Mrs. Ross,” patrol officials said they are waiting on forensic testing from Niess’ vehicle and evidence from the scene.

“There’s a process and the testing process can take some time,” Holt said.