Cyclist killed in hit-and-run; driver called state rep but not 911, coroner says

Now, a state representative and local police chief's actions are under review.

POLK COUNTY, Ga. — A Polk County coroner says nobody called 911 after a driver hit a bicyclist, left the scene and left the victim to die in a ditch.

Now, a state representative and local police chief's actions are under review.

On Sept. 11, 2019, Eric Keais, 38, was riding his bike on Main Street in Cedartown.

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A diagram from Georgia State Patrol shows how the driver hit Keais and took off.

“He left the scene of an accident. That right there shows you intent,” Polk County Coroner Tony Brazier said. “This is a homicide.”

Brazier wants the truth to come out. He believes Keais had a chance to survive if someone called 911.

“The truth will stand when the world is on fire,” he said.

Through an open records request, Channel 2 Cobb County bureau chief Chris Jose got a copy of the Cedartown police report.

It says the driver is Ralph Dover III. As of Feb. 13, he has not been charged with a crime.

“My puzzle is complete, and it shows me a very, very, very ugly picture,” Brazier said.

Brazier said instead of calling 911, Dover called state Rep. Trey Kelley.

Kelley said he met up with Dover. Kelley claims it seemed Dover thought he hit an animal.

Kelley said they drove back to the crash site and later found the bike but no victim.

In an email, Kelley said, “It felt the right thing to do was to call the police.”

“It makes me sick,” the victim’s brother, Aaron Keais, said.

Brazier said Kelley didn’t call 911. He called Police Chief Jamie Newsome at home.

Documents show the chief didn’t call 911, either. He sent one of his sergeants to the scene.

It wasn't until they got there -- an hour after the crash -- that police found Eric Keais.

“I don’t want, ‘I’m sorry,’ or, ‘It’ll be OK.’ No, I want you held accountable because that’s the way the world works,” Aaron Keais said.

Jose was unable to reach Dover and the police chief for comment.

He did get a statement from the city of Cedartown expressing its condolences.

A spokeswoman said the Georgia State Patrol turned the case over to the district attorney’s office, which will decide who will be charged.

Here is the full statement from Kelley:

"It is heartbreaking that our community has experienced a tragedy like this. Our thoughts and our prayers go out to the victim and the families involved. After getting messages from so many, I wanted to tell my story regarding the evening of September 11, 2019.

That night I received a call from a Polk County citizen who I had seen earlier in the night at the Polk County Fair. This individual worked at a local supermarket, is well liked and is known to have limited mental capacity. He was agitated and upset because he had been involved in an accident and thought he may have hit an animal with his car. After trying unsuccessfully to calm him down and find out what he may have hit, I still had no idea what had happened. At that time, I felt the right thing to do was to go to his location to try to find out what had happened. So, I put my boots back on, and got in my truck. After arriving and driving up and down the road, I saw nothing that indicated a life or death situation, but when I saw a bike located in the ditch off the right side of the roadway, I felt the right thing to do was to call the police and that is what I did. At that time, I still did not know another human being was involved. I fully cooperated with law enforcement at the scene and in the ongoing investigation as a witness and will continue to do so."

Here is the full statement from Polk County District Attorney Jack Browning:

"The Georgia State Patrol recently turned over to our office their completed investigation of the incident which occurred on September 11, 2019, involving 38-year-old, Mr. Eric Keais, being struck and killed by a motorist while riding his bicycle on Main Street, north of Cedartown.

The investigation, like many other fatality investigations, was lengthy, involving numerous witness interviews and evidence gathered from various agencies and other entities. This commonly slows and adds to the time necessary to complete such an investigation. It is also not unusual or uncommon for the Georgia State Patrol to defer to, and work with, the District Attorney’s Office in determining the correct charges.

Our office has already begun the process of reviewing the investigation to determine what and who will be charged for the incident that resulted in Mr. Keais’ tragic death. I anticipate bringing those charges to a Polk County Grand Jury soon in the coming weeks. On behalf of myself and the District Attorney’s Office, our deepest condolences go out to Mr. Keais’s family for their tragic loss."

Here is the full statement from the city of Cedartown:

"The City of Cedartown is aware of an incident that occurred on September 11, 2019, which resulted in the tragic passing of Eric Keais. Our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to Mr. Keais’s family.

As with any traffic event of this magnitude, the incident was thoroughly and independently investigated by the Georgia State Patrol. The GSP investigation took several months, which is not unusual in a case like this one. The investigation was completed with the full cooperation of the Cedartown Police Department.

Our understanding is that the Georgia State Patrol’s Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team report has been submitted to the District Attorney’s office and that any potential prosecution will be taken to grand jury in the coming weeks.

Because this is an ongoing criminal case, the City cannot comment further on this matter, other than to reiterate our belief in due process of law and to express our faith in the officials in the District Attorney’s office who would ultimately make decisions regarding the prosecution."