PLEASANT GROVE — A repo man accused of chasing a woman whose car he was trying to repossess was charged Tuesday with using his tow truck to run the woman off the road, causing her to crash into a tree, killing her.
Kenneth Drew, 49, of American Fork, an employee of On Demand Repos, was charged in 4th District Court with manslaughter, a second-degree felony.
Just after midnight on May 17, Drew attempted to repossess a vehicle belonging to Ashleigh Holloway Best, 35, of Pleasant Grove. Best's husband initially argued with Drew, asking for a chance to update his payments in exchange for leaving the vehicle alone, according to a police affidavit.
But while Drew was waiting for the payments to be made, Best — a mother who had recently married and moved to Utah to get back on her feet after struggling financially — got into her 2002 Lincoln Navigator and drove away.
Drew initially told investigators he waited at that point for the tow truck lift to reset before going to look for Best.
However, "a neighbor’s security camera video shows that the tow truck did not stop at all. It shows Mr. Drew forcing Mrs. Best to hug the curb on her right around the cul-de-sac as he tried to box her in with his tow truck and as both vehicles accelerated. Mrs. Best got around the tow truck and the video shows Mr. Drew speeding after the Navigator in very close pursuit as they leave the cul-de-sac and the camera’s view," charging documents state.
"Mr. Drew admitted to police that he was angry at having given the Bests an opportunity to keep their car that they used to try to get away from him," according to the charges.
Rather than leaving and trying to repossess her car at another time, prosecutors say Drew gave chase for up to 12 blocks through residential streets. Drew claimed that Best's vehicle kept veering into his.
"(Drew) claimed that Mrs. Best then accelerated past him on the right, began to fishtail, jumped the curb to the right, and struck a tree. He claimed it all happened so fast that he was not even sure that it was the Navigator until he checked the license plate after the crash. He told police at least twice he immediately pulled in behind Mrs. Best, jumped out of his truck, ran up to the Navigator and called 911. He denied having to slow down further down the road and making a U-turn to return to the accident scene," the charges state.
But prosecutors say an accident reconstruction team showed that Drew's story didn't add up. Based on evidence from the scene plus an interview with Drew's girlfriend who was in his tow truck with him, prosecutors believe the truck was "driving almost parallel" to Best as they entered an S-curve.
"Their preliminary conclusion is that this damage is not consistent with Mr. Drew’s description of a bump between the vehicles, but rather indicates that they were traveling in contact with each other for some time," according to the charges. "Mr. Drew drove the tow truck straight to pin Mrs. Best against the curb on the right. When she did not stop, the Navigator jumped the curb and hit the tree. Furthermore, there was no evidence that the Navigator fishtailed as Mr. Drew described."
Furthermore, video surveillance from a nearby junior high school showed that Drew did not immediately turn around as he claimed.
Drew's girlfriend "repeatedly described this incident as a chase and admitted she was scared," the charges state.
When confronted with the evidence, prosecutors say Drew "conceded that he may have been using his truck to try to stop Mrs. Best, to try to bring the whole thing to an end. He also backtracked on his first account and said that he did not really remember details about how the crash happened," the charges state.
Brian Edwards, owner of On Demand Repos, said shortly after the crash that Drew was an "honest" man.
"My driver, he's a good guy. He doesn't have a mean bone in his body. His does his job. He respects people," he said last week. "I just wish everybody would wait to see what the investigation shows."
Edwards said his company's policy is not to chase people.
Drew has a history of traffic-related offenses, according to state court records. He was convicted of unlawful conduct for a motor carrier in 2015, a class B misdemeanor, in a plea in abeyance. In 2013, Drew was convicted of misdemeanor DUI, and in 2012 pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct, a class C misdemeanor.