Local faces murder charges

Published 8:55 pm Friday, July 31, 2009

A Brundidge man facing murder charges remains in the hospital, after fatally wounding an Ozark resident Wednesday night as he was attempting to elude police officers.

Ronald Charles Pugh, 39, is alleged to have taken the life of Charles Edward Knight, 57 of Ozark, while fleeing the scene of a traffic stop along U.S. Highway 231.

Ozark Police Chief Tony Spivey said the Wiregrass Violent Crimes and Drug Task Force, along with the Dothan Police Department Vice Unit, attempted to stop Pugh’s vehicle around 9:20 p.m. when his 1997 Chevrolet Tahoe was spotted at a local business.

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Pugh was believed to be a narcotics supplier for the area.

As officers were speaking with Pugh, he fled in his vehicle and threw a package out of his window that was later identified as five pounds of marijuana.

Spivey said Pugh almost struck the two officers as he drove away.

Pugh attempted to escape officers while driving north in the southbound lane of Highway 231. Spivey said officers chasing traveled parallel in the northbound lane, attempting to speed ahead and warn motorists.

At the same time, law enforcement from surrounding areas began traveling south hoping to stop Pugh’s car.

The chase ultimately ended, when Pugh’s vehicle collided with Knight’s 2003 Toyota Corolla head on near Dale County Road 2.

“Officers converged on the scene as the SUV erupted into flames,” Spivey said.

Knight was pronounced dead at the scene by Dale County Coroner Woody Hilbolt.

Pugh was retrieved from the burning wreckage by officers, and one of the officers was treated for minor injuries at Dale Medical Center.

Pugh remains in a Dothan hospital, where he is recovering from two broken legs and internal injuries after undergoing surgery, Spivey said.

Pugh is reported to have passed at least 28 southbound vehicles as he was traveling north at speeds reaching 100 miles per hour, Spivey said.

If Pugh had stopped, Spivey said he would have faced charges of trafficking marijuana, which is a Class A felony and punishable between 10 and 99 years, according to the Alabama Code of Law.

He now is charged with murder, trafficking marijuana and felony fleeing and attempting to elude law enforcement.

“This is a very tragic incident in which an innocent life was lost due to the recklessness and disregard for human life on the part of the suspect,” Spivey said.

The incident remains under investigation, and he will be released to the Alabama State Troopers after his recovery is complete.

Spivey said he is unsure why the suspect was traveling in the wrong lane and whether he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time.

Ozark Police were also assisted by the Dale County Sheriff’s Department, Dothan Police Department and Dale County District Attorney’s Office.

State Troopers are conducting the investigation on the traffic fatality.