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Hit-and-run suspect released on bail

Posted: December 14, 2011 - 12:02am

ANCHORAGE — An Anchorage woman suspected of text messaging while being involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident was released on bail and placed under the supervision of third-party custodians.

In granting release, Superior Court Judge Michael Wolverton on Monday raised bail for Ashley Nichole Bashore, 19, from $2,500 to $10,000, according to a KTUU-TV report.

Conditions of Bashore’s release require that she be under the supervision of her boyfriend and sister-in-law, and she’ll have to live in her mother’s home.

Bashore is accused of hitting Hubert Tunuchuk, 28, on one of the city’s main streets. Investigators say they have evidence that Bashore was texting before and after the man from the village of Chefornak was struck. He was hit while walking with two friends on Easter.

Anchorage police said they recovered a text Bashore sent to a friend shortly after the accident, which read, “OMG OMG OMG.” OMG is shorthand in texting for “Oh My God.”

Investigators said Bashore did not stop to help Tunuchuk and didn’t call 911. She was arrested last week after months of investigation. Her trial is scheduled for March.

The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday recommended that states should ban all driver use of cellphones and other portable electronic devices, except in emergencies.

The recommendation, unanimously agreed to by the five-member board, applies to both hands-free and hand-held phones and significantly exceeds any existing state laws restricting texting and cellphone use behind the wheel.

The NTSB made the recommendation in connection with a deadly highway pileup in Missouri last year. The board said the initial collision was caused by the inattention of a 19-year-old pickup driver who sent or received 11 texts in the 11 minutes immediately before the crash.

Bashore’s attorney, Rex Butler, argued in court Monday that his client was not a flight risk and has no significant criminal history and therefore should be released.

But one of the members of Tunuchuk’s family argued against freeing Bashore.

Geoffrey Stauffer, who is married to Tunuchuk’s aunt, said given that Bashore had evaded authorities for months, she did not deserve to be released.

“She’s asking to go home with her family. We don’t get to have Hubert come home with us anymore,” Stauffer said.

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