Victim’s mom: Cycling crash suspect’s insanity defense ‘a ploy’

Charles Pickett charged with 2nd-degree murder in June 2016 crash that killed five

Gail Fevig, Melissa Fevig-Hughes, Kalamazoo cycling tragedy
Gail Fevig's tattoo honors her daughter, Melissa Fevig-Hughes, who was among five people killed when they were hit by a pickup truck as they rode their bicycles in Cooper Township on June 7, 2016. Four others were hurt. (March 30, 2017)


*Editor’s Note: 24 Hour News 8 incorrectly named Gail’s daughter who was killed in the bicyclist crash as Michelle instead of Melissa. We regret the error and have fixed it in the copy below.

PLAINWELL, Mich. (WOOD) — Gail Fevig rolls up her sleeve to show the new tattoo that memorializes the crash that killed five bicyclists in Kalamazoo County, including her daughter.

It’s a bicycle chain twisted into the shape of a heart and surrounded by the numbers 4, 5, 6 and 7.

“Four injured, five were killed, June 7th,” Fevig said, explaining the numbers.

Gail Fevig, Michelle Fevig-Hughes, Kalamazoo cycling tragedy
Gail Fevig’s tattoo honors her daughter, Melissa Fevig-Hughes, who was among five people killed when they were hit by a pickup truck as they rode their bicycles in Cooper Township on June 7, 2016. Four others were hurt. (March 30, 2017)

“You can hold it by your heart,” she added as she pressed the tattoo to her chest.

Fevig, of Plainwell, spoke Thursday for the first time about the loss of her daughter, 42-year-old Melissa Fevig-Hughes.

She is tired of the delays in the case against the accused killer, Charles Pickett Jr., including the latest — a claim filed by his attorney for the insanity defense.

Charles Pickett Jr. appears in court for a preliminary hearing. (Nov. 7, 2016)

“I think it’s just another ploy to drag things out and, hopefully for us, it’s a good thing because he won’t have anything to come back on at the end, to say that he didn’t get a fair trial or anything,” she said.

Her daughter was a mom of two girls, now 11 and 14 and being raised by their dad.

“He took my daughter, he took our future, he took our granddaughter’s mother. He took everything from us,” Fevig said.

That day last summer, her daughter was out riding with friends who were part of a group called the Chain Gang.

“She was a runner, mostly a mountain climber, marathoner, just did her first triathlon and had done all the training indoors because it was bad weather, so it was the first day she was out on her bike,” Fevig said of her daughter.

Kalamazoo Cycling Tragedy victims
Top, left to right: Debbie Bradley and Melissa Fevig-Hughes. Bottom, left to right: Tony Nelson, Larry Paulik and Suzanne Sippel.

Authorities say Pickett plowed into the group from behind along a rural road in Cooper Township, north of Kalamazoo. The crash killed five of the cyclists — Fevig-Hughes, Debbie Bradley, Tony Nelson, Larry Paulik and Suzanne Sippel — and badly injured four others. It’s considered the worst bicycle-related crash in U.S. history.

Picket is charged with five counts of second-degree murder, four counts of reckless driving and five counts of driving while intoxicated causing death. Police say he took pain pills and muscle relaxers hours before the crash.

A judge has already found him competent to stand trial.

Fevig’s mother said she finally got up the nerve to see Pickett for herself in court last week.

“He’s just a man. He’s just a man,” she said. “He’s not a big dragon kind of killer thing. He was just a man. It was sad.”

But she wants him to pay for the loss.

“He should never drive any vehicle again and the only way to do that is he has to be incarcerated because if he gets out, he’ll just do it again,” she said. “He has no remorse, no anything for other humankind.”

Pickett is scheduled to go to trial on April 24, though it’s unclear if the insanity claim could delay that.

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