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Phoenix man says trucker admitted guilt in hit-and-run death

LIVINGSTON, Mont. -- Officials in south-central Montana said they have a warrant for the arrest of a truck driver suspected in the hit-and-run death of a man on Interstate 90 near Big Timber in September.

A Phoenix man has said that the driver told him he believed he had hit a truck.

The Sweet Grass County sheriff's office is searching for David Welk of St. Cloud, Minn., in the Sept. 30 death of Elgie Bedford, 81, of Wasilla, Alaska. The warrant lists bond at $250,000 for a charge of leaving the scene of a fatal crash.

Welk, 45, became a suspect after his driving partner called the Montana Highway Patrol on Oct. 25 to say he had information about the crash near Big Timber.

Michael Karls of Phoenix told investigators he was in the sleeping area of a truck traveling westbound on Interstate 90 in Montana early on Sept. 30 when he heard and felt the truck collide with something, court records said. Karls said he asked what happened and that Welk began yelling and hollering and said: "I just hit someone."

Karls said he asked Welk if he was sure and said they discussed whether it might have been a bear. Karls said Welk stopped and walked back toward the area of the collision, where he found the truck's headlight. He said they got back in the truck, drove about six miles to the next exit, turned around and drove back to the spot, which was near the Greycliff exit.

Karls said he saw clothing in the road and that Welk used a flashlight to survey the area before saying that it was just some clothing and a duffel bag. However, Karls said Welk was acting very nervous and upset.

Based on Karls' information, an Ohio State Trooper secured the truck at a truck stop in Eaton, Ohio. When Trooper Thip Vongsy asked about the crash in Montana, Welk told Vongsy he hit a deer, court records said. Further investigation found that Welk told repairmen for the trucking company that he hit a hawk and broke a headlight.

Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Joe Hensley told the Livingston Enterprise that Welk no longer worked for the trucking company and has no permanent address.

"He's a nomad by trade," Hensley said.

Bedford's wife told investigators her husband was on an annual trip to Texas to visit family when he was killed. Officers have been unable to determine why Bedford was walking along the road. His car was parked nearby.

The driver of another vehicle that hit Bedford is charged with leaving the scene of a fatal crash and tampering with evidence for allegedly washing a vehicle in Livingston and leaving parts of Bedford's body at the car wash. Wryan Young of Oak Harbor, Wash., has pleaded not guilty to those charges. Her father, Westley Young, has denied a tampering charge.

When questioned by Washington authorities, Westley Young said a semi hit Bedford first.

MHP Trooper Bill Bullock has said Bedford's body was apparently struck by numerous vehicles.

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