Charges after man dies while stealing street signs

Dakotah Kearns. (Courtesy his obituary)

PAW PAW, Mich. (WOOD) — A man faces charges for allegedly trying to cover up that he and a friend were stealing street signs when the friend died in a vehicle accident, Van Buren County authorities say.

Dakotah Kearns, a Gobles man living in Missouri, was dropped off at a hospital in October 2013. Hospital staff was told he had fallen down a flight of stairs at home. Despite efforts to save him, Kearns died on Oct. 11.

The Kalamazoo County Medical Examiner’s Office, which performed the autopsy on the 23-year-old Kearns, notified the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 18 that Kearns’ injuries were not consistent with a stair fall.

The sheriff’s department started investigating and found that Kearns may have been attempting to steal street signs when he died.

The investigation soon led detectives to Seth Jones, 24, of Lawton. When they confronted him with what they had learned, he admitted that Kearns had been riding on top of his vehicle as they stole street signs in the area of County Road 653 and 42nd Avenue in Almena Township.

Kearns fell, Jones said, and hit his head on the ground when the turned along a bend.

The Van Buren County Prosecutor’s Office issued a three-count felony warrant for Jones for reckless or negligent driving causing death, failing to report a personal injury or fatal traffic crash and operating a vehicle without insurance or security.

Seth Jones. (February 2014)
Seth Jones. (February 2014)

Jones turned himself in to the sheriff’s office earlier this week and was officially charged. He posted 10% of a $10,000 bond and was released.

“The family of Dakota Kearns was extremely happy that Detectives were able to find the truth out about Dakota’s death and stated that it provided them closure on the incident,” the sheriff’s office said in a release.

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