Man charged with second-degree murder in fatal Lawrence crash

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A man was charged Tuesday with second-degree murder in connection with a crash that killed a 70-year-old Lawrence man in April.

Anthony M. Royal, 55, of Lawrence, was booked into the Douglas County jail Monday evening and was formally charged Tuesday afternoon in Douglas County District Court, online records show.

The crash occurred around 6:30 p.m. April 8 on Bob Billings Parkway, near the intersection with the off-ramp from Kansas Highway 10. A report from the Kansas Highway Patrol says Royal was exiting the highway in a Dodge Ram and failed to stop at the stop sign at the top of the ramp to Bob Billings Parkway. The report says Royal’s truck struck a black BMW X3, which is a compact SUV, in the driver’s side door.

A person who witnessed the crash told KHP that she had been southbound on K-10 and getting ready to exit onto Bob Billings Parkway. She said a motorcycle had passed her at a high rate of speed on the right shoulder of K-10, and then the Dodge pickup had passed her, also on the shoulder, before it exited at Bob Billings. She said she never saw brake lights on the truck.

Another witness told KHP she thought the truck was trying to speed through the intersection to get back onto K-10 in pursuit of the motorcycle. She said she could tell the truck was not going to stop for the SUV.

Royal’s blood alcohol concentration was .11, according to the report, which is above the legal limit of .08. He’d allegedly ordered four double vodka drinks at a Lawrence establishment prior to the crash, according to a receipt investigators found.

Royal told the KHP investigator that as he was coming down the ramp, his truck was slowing like it should, according to the report.

“He stated he saw a light come on the dash which showed a message about the electronic braking system,” the report says. “He stated the brakes did not feel right and he got a glimpse of a vehicle going east on Bob Billings Parkway. He stated he attempted to swerve but hit the other vehicle.”

However, “A vehicle autopsy/electronic download was unable to be performed due to the burn damage” on the truck, the report says.

It was not clear from the report whether Royal had mentioned the motorcycle that witnesses told investigators they saw.

Royal was “found crawling from the driver side of his vehicle, up the hill, to the northwest away from the burning vehicle,” according to the report. He was taken to Stormont Vail hospital in Topeka with “obvious” broken bones in both legs.

The charging document, filed by Deputy Douglas County District Attorney Joshua Seiden, alleges that Royal unintentionally but recklessly killed John T. Kirby, the 70-year-old driver of the BMW. The second-degree murder charge is a level-2 felony. Royal also faces charges of tampering with an ignition interlock device, a misdemeanor, and a traffic infraction of failing to stop at a stop sign. He allegedly told investigators he was supposed to be driving with interlock because of a previous conviction for driving under the influence, but the device was on his other vehicle.

The report states that Kirby had taken medication and his blood alcohol concentration was .062, which is below the legal limit to drive, and there was no evidence that he was impaired. He was taken by ambulance to LMH Health, where he was pronounced dead about an hour later.

Kirby had been in a good mood that evening and was on his way into town to see his granddaughter, according to the crash report.

Kirby was the owner of a local insurance company, according to his obituary. His survivors include his wife; numerous children, grandchildren and great grandchildren; siblings and in-laws; and numerous nieces and nephews, according to the obituary.

Royal’s next court date is a status conference at 10 a.m. Oct. 25, according to online court records. As of Tuesday afternoon, he was being held in custody of the jail on a $75,000 cash or surety bond.

All arrestees and defendants in criminal cases should be presumed not guilty unless and until they are convicted.

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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