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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

100 years ago in Spokane: Civil lawsuit answers question of who was driving car in fatal pedestrian crash

A civil jury, as part of its ruling, found that Roger Bartelt was driving a car that struck and killed Audley B. Allison in February 1921.  (S-R archives)
By Jim Kershner The Spokesman-Review

A Spokane jury ruled on a thorny question that had been in doubt for months: Was Roger Bartelt or Ray English the driver of the auto that killed pedestrian Audley B. Allison in February 1921?

The jury’s answer: Roger Bartelt.

In one sense, this was not a surprising decision, since Bartelt had already pleaded guilty to manslaughter months ago and served time in the Monroe reformatory.

Yet it wasn’t so simple. Even while Bartelt was serving time at Monroe, two of the teenage passengers in the car submitted affidavits claiming that Ray English had been driving the auto. They said they had they all agreed, shortly after the incident, to let Bartelt take the rap instead. Because of those affidavits, English was charged with manslaughter and was currently out on bail.

This most recent ruling came during a civil trial. The Allison family had brought a $50,000 lawsuit against the Bartelt family for wrongful death.

In considering the lawsuit, the jury had to answer the fundamental question: Was Bartelt actually driving the car?

In a special verdict, they found that Bartelt was indeed driving the car. They awarded $20,000 to the Allison family.

The prosecutor’s office had not issued a statement, but the Spokane Daily Chronicle said “there is little doubt that” the charges against English would now be dropped.

The Bartelt family was appealing the ruling.