The Arizona Department of Public Safety announced on Thursday that the elderly woman who was ejected from her vehicle following a two-car, rear-end collision on Interstate 8 the previous day has died from her injuries. Her name has not been released.
The alleged driver of the other car, now identified as 32-year-old Benjamin Griffith of Phoenix, fled on foot afterward and was apprehended by troopers approximately 10 minutes later in the desert area behind the Harley Davidson motorcycle dealership on Gila Ridge Road.
Griffith, who was involved in a vehicle pursuit with DPS troopers when the crash occurred, made his initial appearance in Yuma Justice Court on Thursday morning, where he appeared before Justice of the Peace pro tem Darci Weede.
Weede informed Griffith that he was being held on three charges of aggravated assault, one count of unlawful flight from law enforcement vehicle and failure to stay at the scene of an accident, all of which are felonies.
She explained that the Yuma County Attorney’s Office has two days to determine whether to file a criminal complaint against him, charging him with any of the offenses. Griffith now also likely faces a murder charge.
If no criminal complaint is filed, Weede continued, he would be released. If a complaint is filed, however, he will be provided with a copy of it when he returns to court on Monday for his arraignment.
Weede also set Griffith’s bail as a $100,000 cash-only bond. He remains in custody at the Yuma County jail.
According to the DPS, at approximately 9:56 a.m. Wednesday troopers were issued an attempt to locate (ATL) for a silver four-door hatch-back vehicle that was traveling westbound on Interstate 8 near milepost 24 in speeds in excess of 100 m.p.h. and passing vehicles by using the emergency lane.
After the ATL was broadcast, a trooper, who was observing traffic in the median at milepost 15, observed a vehicle matching the description and attempted to conduct a traffic stop on it. However, instead of stopping, the driver of the silver four-door hatch-back vehicle, now identified as Griffith, continued at a high-rate of speed and a pursuit ensued.
During the pursuit stop sticks were laid out across the Interstate at milepost 3.9, successfully deflating one of the silver four-door hatch-back vehicle’s tires. Griffith, the alleged driver, lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a 2015 orange Hyundai Accent that had three occupants.
The force of the collision caused the orange Hyundai to roll over into the median, ejecting one passenger, an elderly woman, and severely injuring two others. The elderly woman was airlifted from the scene and flown to a Phoenix-area hospital. The two other occupants of the vehicle were transported to Yuma Regional Medical Center.
When the trooper who had been pursuing Griffith arrived on scene, he was told by a motorist who had stopped for the crash that the driver had fled the scene on foot.
Griffith, who had a German Shepard with him, was later spotted walking in the desert toward businesses on Gila Ridge Road and refused to follow commands from troopers. Yuma police officers responded to the area, and along with troopers, had the suspect in custody by about 10:18 a.m.
A jar containing a few buds of a leafy green substance thought to be marijuana was found in the middle console of Griffith’s vehicle, DPS said.
When interviewed, Griffith reportedly told authorities that he knew he was being followed by police and that the trooper had tried to stop him. Authorities also said Griffith told them that he was on his way to California to spread the ashes of his deceased father.