Hazelwood Man Charged With Manslaughter In Road-Rage Crash

Date 2014/4/28 4:26:39 | Topic: News

ST. LOUIS (AP) - The chase started with put-downs, pocket change and a stick of deodorant. Derek Cliffe was driving a 2013 Dodge Dart with a friend early the morning of Feb. 19. Kirk Mueller was driving a Ford F350 with two friends. Insults were exchanged at a stoplight in St. Charles after they left a bar on Main Street.
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Someone in Mueller’s truck lobbed a handful of coins at Cliffe’s car; Cliffe’s friend threw back the deodorant.

The chase was on.

Mueller followed Cliffe onto Interstate 70 from St. Charles into Maryland Heights, police say. Cliffe thought he had eluded the pickup after turning south on Maryland Heights Expressway (Highway 141) near Riverport Drive. He made a sudden U-turn about 1 a.m., not realizing the pickup was not far behind. Maryland Heights Police Chief Bill Carson said Mueller’s truck veered to the left, crossed the center line of the expressway and broadsided Cliffe’s car in the northbound lanes. Skid marks suggest Mueller may have tried to avoid the crash. Cliffe, 26, of St. Peters, died about 3:20 a.m. at DePaul Health Center in Bridgeton. His passenger was not seriously hurt. Mueller and his passengers were uninjured.

Mueller’s blood alcohol level was at least 0.152 percent, nearly twice the legal limit, officials said. When his truck struck Cliffe’s car, Mueller was driving at least 73 mph in a 45 mph zone.

On Friday, prosecutors charged Mueller, 23, of the 1700 block of Teson Road in Hazelwood, with involuntary manslaughter, a felony. The charge accuses him of recklessly causing the death by chasing Cliffe’s vehicle while intoxicated, speeding and following too closely.

His bail was set at $50,000. He also was ordered to wear an alcohol monitoring device.

Mueller could not be reached for comment.

Cliffe was sober that night, police said. His parents, Marty and Sue Cliffe of Destin, Fla., said their son had given up drinking as part of a healthier lifestyle.

“In my opinion, Derek is the only one who did anything right that night,” Marty Cliffe said. “And he’s the one who’s dead.”

Derek Cliffe grew up in south St. Louis County and graduated from Mehlville Senior High School, where he played football, and from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He worked several jobs, including as manager at an AutoZone and a Blockbuster, and waiting tables at a Bob Evans. He also interned at ESPN Radio St. Louis (101.1 FM).

He had been engaged to be married last May but his fiancée called it off a few weeks before the wedding, his parents said. Then he found several new friends he called “The Wolfpack,” because they had become so close and looked after each other.

“He had finally overcome the sadness of not getting married and found these friends who changed his life,” his mother said. “Meeting these young men, it was the happiest time of his life. They called him ‘Dad’ because he was the most mature and the most responsible. He was the single guy who had his own condo.”



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