Man Wanted In Crash That Killed Plumber Surrenders

Springs Suspect Lied, Saying Woman Was Driving In Deadly Crash, Police Say

Police say a wanted man who denied driving in a crash that killed one plumber and seriously injured another has turned himself in at the Colorado Springs Police Department.

Michael Stephen Benton,32, surrendered about 8:20 p.m. Monday, police said. Benton was arrested on a felony charge of driving in an accident involving death or personal injury.

Police say Benton lied, saying he wasn't driving the gray Nissan Pathfinder involved. However, investigators were suspicious of his account.

The Pathfinder crashed into a parked car on the morning of Feb. 13, pinning two plumbers removing equipment from the back of their van.

One plumber, Mark Meschelle, 46, died at a hospital. Ken Baker, 44, the co-owner of Allied Plumbing, was hospitalized with serious injuries.

Police said that Benton, who was driving with a revoked license, and a female passenger concocted a story that the woman was driving the Pathfinder when she veered to avoid a black pickup truck pulling into traffic.

"She said that she was driving the vehicle and a pickup pulled out into traffic and she swerved to avoid it," said police spokeswoman Barbara Miller.

Benton, who claimed to be the woman's passenger, echoed the story, saying the pickup cut them off and left the scene.

Deadly Crash: Two plumbers were pinned between the white van and the red car when a gray Nissan Pathfinder (visible behind the red car) slammed into the parked car.

"The investigators didn't feel that everything was being told to them," Miller said. "So, during the investigation they separated (Benton and the woman) and they re-interviewed and it came out that she was not driving the vehicle. He actually was driving it. And they have other evidence now to support that."

Investigators also believe the black pickup story was a fabrication, she said.

"Mr. Benton is habitual traffic offender and his license at the time was revoked. So he didn't want to get in trouble," Miller said.

Police obtained an arrest warrant for Benton and launched a manhunt for him last week.

In December 2008, Benton was arrested for driving under the influence in El Paso County and later pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of driving while ability impaired, according to court records.

Benton also has two convictions for driving with a revoked license in 2011 and 2010 and a conviction for felony menacing with a weapon in 2009, all in El Paso County, court records said.

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