Man pleads no contest in 2018 pedestrian death on Gratiot

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published August 6, 2019

 Brandon Ratliff

Brandon Ratliff

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — The man who allegedly hit and killed a Clinton Township man with his vehicle recently pleaded no contest in Macomb County Circuit Court.

On July 25, the defendant, Brandon Ratliff, 39, of Mount Clemens, filed the plea for the felony charge of failing to stop at the scene of an accident, resulting in serious impairment or death. It is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Toia is presiding over the case.

Ratliff’s attorney, Mitchell Ribitwer, could not be reached for comment by press time.

The charges stem from a July 2, 2018, crash that occurred at approximately 12:23 a.m. on southbound Gratiot Avenue, near Wellington Crescent. Clinton Township Police Sgt. Christopher Allis said last summer that authorities were able to obtain surveillance footage from nearby businesses.

Videos reportedly show a white or cream-colored 2011 Cadillac Escalade hit a man in the roadway, then leave the scene.

The victim was Joseph Canty, 34, of Clinton Township, who suffered head trauma and a broken left leg prior to being pronounced dead at McLaren Macomb Hospital. His body was found in the road by a transient, police said.

Allis said Canty was staying at a nearby motel at the time of the incident. Police confirmed that Canty did not cross at a traffic light. The crash occurred about 150 feet south of Wellington Crescent, where the speed limit is 35 mph.

A preliminary investigation at the time revealed that Canty was reportedly hit by the Escalade in the left through lane as he was walking from the west side of the road to the east side. He was struck on the passenger side of the vehicle.

The driver of the Escalade, now confirmed to be Ratliff, left the scene and entered a car wash between northbound and southbound Gratiot. Allis said at the time that Ratliff “was definitely fleeing the scene.”

About one day later, police located the Escalade.

More than a month after the hit-and-run, Clinton Township police confirmed on Aug. 14 that Ratliff had been arrested and arraigned.

On Aug. 15 of last year, Capt. Richard Maierle said that Officer Josh Lundin drove around the crash scene area and spotted Ratliff’s Escalade. Ratliff was living in an apartment north of Wellington Crescent. Maierle said the Escalade’s mirror was missing, matching information gathered at the crime scene.

Detective Steve Rupkus, through his own investigation, obtained a warrant that led to Ratliff’s eventual arrest. Ratliff surrendered himself. Maierle said then that Ratliff, who was released on $5,000 as part of 10% surety bond, likely would not have been prosecuted for anything else besides the one charge.

“We don’t know if he was impaired or if there was any drugs or alcohol, because we can’t prove it,” Maierle said last August. “All we can prove is he left the scene.”

Ratliff’s sentencing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Sept. 11.

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