Investigators: Passenger jumped from truck on I-55 to avoid head-on crash and later died; driver facing multiple charges

Investigators: Passenger jumped from truck on I-55 to avoid head-on crash and later died; driver fac

SOUTHEAST MISSOURI (KFVS) - A man is facing charges in two counties after a crash and a “deadly incident” on Interstate 55 on Thursday, August 29.

According to the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff’s Office, Myron Lee Tillman, 41, of Lilbourn, was taken into custody at approximately 6:15 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 30.

He was charged in Cape Girardeau County with operating a motor vehicle in a careless and imprudent manner involving an accident, leaving the scene of an accident and driving while revoked/suspended second or third offense.

His bond was set at $10,000 in Cape Girardeau County.

He appeared in court on Monday, Sept. 16 in Cape Girardeau County. His bench trial was scheduled for Oct. 10.

In Scott County, Tillman was charged with first-degree or attempted assault, first-degree involuntary manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident - accident resulting in death, armed criminal action, driving while revoked/suspended license and operating a motor vehicle in a careless and imprudent manner - involving an accident.

His bond was set at $100,000 cash or surety.

A court date for the Scott County charges has not been scheduled.

A Missouri State Highway Patrol sergeant stated in court papers that Tillman drove the wrong direction on I-55 for 23 miles and believed he would have continued driving on the wrong side if he hadn’t been involved in a crash that disabled his vehicle.

A probable cause statement from Cape Girardeau County investigators said he was convicted on June 5, 2019 in New Madrid County Circuit Court for driving while suspended/revoked.

Court documents state family members reportedly told investigators that Tillman has mental health issues and he was not taking his prescribed medications.

‘Deadly incident’ at the 88 mile marker on I-55

On Aug. 29, around 10:36 a.m., officers were notified of a wrong-way driver going northbound in the southbound lanes of I-55 near the 88 mile marker in Scott County.

Authorities were on the scene of one crash at the 88 mile marker on southbound I-55 in Scott County. (Source: Tayler Davis/KFVS)
Authorities were on the scene of one crash at the 88 mile marker on southbound I-55 in Scott County. (Source: Tayler Davis/KFVS)

According to court documents, there was reportedly a crash at the 88 mile marker, with a truck leaving the scene, and an individual lying on the side of the road. While on the way to the scene, Troopers were told the Ford F-150 continued going north in the southbound lanes before crashing at the 111 mile marker.

At the 88 mile marker, investigators say they found a GMC Terrain off the west side of the road, in the ditch. They said the driver told them he was going southbound in the passing lane when he saw a Ford F-150 going northbound in his lane. He said he swerved to avoid a crash and his vehicle was hit in the rear by the Ford.

Investigators say a witness to the crash reported seeing the same thing.

According to court documents, the body of a man was found on the east side of the road. He was pronounced dead at around 10:59 a.m.

That man was identified as 41-year-old Claude L. Nix, Jr., of Jackson, Tenn.

Investigators say the body was found south of the scene of the crash with the GMC, which they believe indicated Nix got out of the Ford F-150 before the crash.

They say a report had been called in that said a man was “hanging out” of a passenger window in a vehicle going the wrong direction on I-55 in the southbound lane.

Sgt. Clark Parrott with the Missouri State Highway Patrol said Nix had injuries conducive to jumping or falling out of the truck.

Scott County Coroner Scott Amick said the preliminary autopsy report showed Nix died from injuries sustained in the incident.

Search for Tillman off I-55 at the 111 mile marker

According to court documents, Tillman was driving a green 1996 Ford F-150 northbound in the southbound lanes of I-55 and was involved in a minor crash at around 12:30 p.m. with a black Hyundai Sonata.

This was near the Cowboy Church. Specifically, the area was between I-55 and E (Oak Ridge exit) and I-55 and KK (Old Appleton exit).

Court papers state the drivers swerved to miss hitting each other, but both crashed on the southbound shoulder. The left front of Tillman’s truck hit the rear of the car.

The driver of the Hyundai was able to gain control of the vehicle.

Tillmans’ truck reportedly went off into the grass and down an embankment where it hit the cable barrier separating the outer road form the interstate. After this impact, the truck came back up the embankment and stopped in the driving lane of I-55 because it became undriveable.

A blue or green Ford F-150 was found at the 111 mile marker on northbound I-55. (Source: Tayler Davis/KFVS)
A blue or green Ford F-150 was found at the 111 mile marker on northbound I-55. (Source: Tayler Davis/KFVS)

In court papers, Troopers state Tillman took off on foot from the scene wearing only underwear or shorts.

Investigators said no one was injured in the crash and the truck was towed from the scene.

Traffic was temporarily diverted off of I-55 onto Highway 61.

Bob Thompson said he was on the interstate when Tillman sped by. He said he was afraid the reckless driver was going to hit them head on.

“You could hear the noise, he was running on the rumble strips before he got to us and we were only about a foot from him when he went by you know,” Thompson said. “I thought if he hits somebody, he is going to kill them and kill himself, you know.”

There was an active search for Tillman on Thursday in the areas of I-55 off the Oak Ridge exit and Old Appleton exit at KK.

Authorities used two helicopters and several K-9 units to search the wooded area.

Court papers state a police K-9 found a pair of shorts in the median from where Tillman left the scene.

Brandon Petzoldt, whose family owns more than 300 acres of farm land near the search area, helped try to tack Tillman down.

“Me and a friend of mine we went into all of our buildings, searched them all, all of the trucks, equipment things like that," Petzoldt said. "Went through them all, and of course have come up with nothing yet.”

By 3 p.m. on Thursday, Sheriff Ruth Ann Dickerson said officers had cleared the scene in the parking lot of the Cowboy Church. The search was called off after investigators had reason to believe Tillman was given a ride out of the area.

Update: The search for the suspect involved in the motor vehicle accident has been terminated between the areas of...

Posted by Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Office on Thursday, August 29, 2019

Petzoldt said keeping an eye out for alleged criminals is just part of his civic duty.

“A civilian that is walking around is going see a lot more," Petzoldt said. "Cops can only be so many places, so just keep your eye out and if you see something call.”

Tillman in custody

The sheriff’s office said a concerned citizen that lives near the 111 mile marker off of I-55 on Orchid Ln. near Oak Ridge called the sheriff’s office on Friday morning, Aug. 30 stating a man that matched Tillman’s description had knocked on their door asking to come in.

Instead of letting Tillman in, the caller contacted law enforcement.

A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said a deputy responded to the area and confirmed it was Tillman.

He was taken into custody just before 6:30 a.m. without a problem.

At approximately 6:15 am this morning, Myron Lee Tillman, 41, has been taken into custody. Tillman was suspected of...

Posted by Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Office on Friday, August 30, 2019

Court documents stated Tillman was naked, but had a windshield shade wrapped around his body.

In an interview, investigators say Tillman told them he was driving the Ford with Nix in the truck with him. He said Nix wanted to get out and he told him to “wait” and he would let him out, but said the next thing he could remember, he was involved in a crash in a ditch.

According to court documents, investigators believe Nix saw a head-on crash was imminent and jumped from the Ford F-150 before it hit the GMC Terrain.

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