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Clinton Township

January 31, 2013

Driver who caused Fraser accident pleads no contest to vehicular manslaughter

By Nico Rubello
C & G Staff Writer

MOUNT CLEMENS — The driver who caused a car accident that led to the death of a 22-year-old Fraser man and injured his twin brother last summer recently pleaded no contest to a felony charge.

Ronald Lee Haggen, 67, of Detroit, submitted the plea Jan. 22 in Judge Mary Chrzanowski’s Macomb County circuit courtroom. A no contest plea, while not an admission of guilt, is treated as such for sentencing purposes.

Around 11:30 p.m. on Aug. 2, 2012, Haggen was heading north on Hayes when he rear-ended a stopped car waiting to turn left at a red light at 15 Mile Road, police said. Haggen’s car was going about 80 miles per hour.

Inside the car he hit were Ryan and Drew Roberts, twin brothers and Fraser High School alumni who were on their way to see a midnight movie opening.

They were taken to the hospital. Ryan, the passenger, died the following day, Aug. 3.

Haggen’s attorney, Warren Harris, said that Haggen had had a diabetic episode, which caused him to lose consciousness.

Haggen did have alcohol in his system, but it was below the 0.08 percent legal limit, police said at the time.

Assistant Macomb County Prosecutor Steven Fox said, while Haggen certainly had a low blood sugar at the time of the accident, the felony charge pertained to the standard that he had been “grossly negligent” in managing his diabetes.

“Everybody has an obligation to operate their vehicle in a safe way,” Fox said.

The twins’ parents, Barry and Laura Roberts, were at their home, less than a mile from the scene of the accident, when they received a phone call from a dispatcher.

Barry Roberts said he would have liked to see a guilty plea, but the fact that the matter didn’t go to a jury trial saved the family hard times.

“He was just a good kid,” Barry Roberts said.

The Roberts brothers had graduated from Fraser High School, where they played football. A few months before the accident, in May, they graduated from Central Michigan University, where they had lived together. They worked at the same store and shared the same car.

Barry Roberts said his family had yet to come to terms with his son’s death, and still had questions about what Haggen did leading up to the accident.

Harris said that Haggen had led an exemplary life; he had a clean driving record and had never before been arrested or accused of a crime, Harris added.

Since the accident, in which Haggen had broken several bones, the retired assembly line worker has been living with the remorse of what happened, Harris said.

“What happened to that family and the young man that died surely is tragic,” Harris said, adding Haggen also “relives this every day.”

Haggen’s sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 28. The charge carries a possible sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Nico Rubello at nrubello@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1118.