Northwest NEWS

November 16, 1998

Front Page

Driver charged in hit-and-run death

   Michael Rhynalds told friends he hit a deer that night, but the friends, after hearing about a Nov. 7 hit-and-run accident that killed a North Bend teen, became suspicious about the front-end damage to the white 1988 Ford Mustang.
  
   So they went to the spot where Rhynalds said he hit the animal but found no evidence that a deer was hit. Afterwards they confronted Rhynalds who broke down, allegedly admitting to hitting the youth, saying he was sorry, and that," I didn't see him, it was so dark."
  
   He then turned himself in to police at the King County Jail.
  
   Rhynalds, a 27-year-old Fall City man, was charged last Thursday with felony hit-and-run and also with driving with a suspended license. He is being held on $100,000 bail because prosecutors say, based on his driving record, he must be considered dangerous to the public.
  
   According to charging papers, Rhynalds has a prior charge of DUI, which was reduced to negligent driving. He has two prior convictions and a pending charge for driving with a suspended license as well as several speeding tickets.
  
   Prosecutors say that the Mustang was owned by someone else, but that Rhynalds had been driving it all day Friday, the day before the accident, and that when Rhynalds had returned to the room he had rented in North Bend he realized he didn't have his keys and left to get a friend's keys. He said when he was westbound on 415 Way SE a pedestrian suddenly appeared in front of the car on the roadway and that he did not have time to stop or avoid the collision.
  
   Prosecutors said the pedestrian, 15-year-old Dane Rempfer, who had been walking with friends, was thrown betwen 160 and 195 feet and that Rhynalds did not stop or return to the scene of the collision.
  
   Arraignment for Rhynalds is set for Nov. 25 at the King County Courthouse.
  
   The victim was a freshman at Mt. Si High School. His mother, Charlotte, has been an active volunteer for years with Children's Services of Sno-Valley in North Bend.
  
   Joan Sharp, Director of Children's Services, said last week that Charlotte became involved there when Dane was just a "little guy needing help" because he had a learning disability.
  
   "This has been a tough time," said Sharp, who noted that Charlotte Rempfer has been co-chair for their capital campaign which was instrumental in constructing the Children's Services building.
  
   "This has been known as the house that Charlotte built," Sharp said. "It's been particularly touching for us because Dane was the key to getting Charlotte involved."