Suspect charged in deadly hit-and-run crash

Douglas Crystal
Douglas Crystal's Sept. 17, 2017 mug shot from the Kent County Correctional Facility.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Cedar Springs man faces four felony charges in connection to a hit-and-run crash that killed a mother and injured her twin sons.

Douglas James Crystal, 36, was charged Monday with failure to stop at the scene of an accident when at fault causing death; reckless driving causing death; failure to stop at the scene of an accident resulting in serious impairment or death; and reckless driving causing serious impairment of a body function.

“Cases like this are so horrific and so difficult for everybody,” 63rd District Court Judge Sara Smolenski said at his arraignment as she explained her rationale for setting a high bond in the case. “They are like everyone’s worst nightmare.”

The crash happened Friday evening at the intersection of 15 Mile Road and Ritchie Avenue in Courtland Township, northeast of Rockford.

A crash on 15 Mile Road killed one and injured two others on Sept. 15, 2017.

Authorities said 33-year-old Meranda Baguss of Sand Lake was heading westbound on 15 Mile Road when her vehicle was struck by a pickup truck traveling northbound on Ritchie Avenue.

Crystal was driving more than 91 mph when the crash happened, authorities told the court. They also said alcohol may have been a factor in the crash.

Baguss died at the scene. Her 5-year-old twin boys were taken to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital with life-threatening injuries. Hospital staff told 24 Hour News 8 Monday that one of the boys was still in critical condition and the other had been upgraded to serious condition.

Authorities said the driver of the pickup truck ran away from the scene of the crime, leaving the totaled truck behind.

Investigators say they caught up with him Saturday after he called for medical treatment for injuries he sustained in the crash.

“Crystal complained of head and chest pain. He was asked how he was injured and he told Dep. Moon that he had been in an accident,” read an affidavit to the court signed by a Kent County sheriff’s deputy. “When Dep. Moon asked Crystal what had occurred with the accident, he informed Dep. Moon that he did not want to answer any questions without an attorney present.”

Jail records show Crystal was booked into the Kent County Correctional Facility Sunday. He was wearing a neck brace as his mug shot was taken.

On Monday, his bond was set at $500,000.

“We look at these cases and they horrify us,” Smolenski said in justifying the bond.

If convicted as charged, Crystal could spend more than 15 years in prison.

According to an online obituary, funeral services for Baguss will be held Thursday evening at Bliss-Witters & Pike Funeral Home in Cedar Springs. The obituary also provided a link to a GoFundMe account where memorial contributions may be made; the money will go toward funeral expenses and Baguss’ sons’ medical expenses.