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Hit-and-run driver who hurt cyclist sentenced to 9 months in jail

Published October 30, 2009 5:52 pm

Injuries » Victim left with severe injuries that required learning to walk again.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

After hitting a bicyclist last March, Nicholas T. Murdock exited his car, looked at the unconscious victim, then opened his trunk to hide his license plate and drove away.

In a letter of apology to the victim, 57-year-old Herm Franks, Murdock described his actions as "weak and cowardly."

Third District Judge Michele Christiansen agreed, sentencing the 28-year-old Holladay man to nine months in jail and three years probation.

The victim chose not to attend the sentencing hearing. But Franks' attorney, Terry Welch, described how life has changed for his client.

Franks was an avid biker, hiker, skier and world-traveler who kept his body in top physical condition, Welch told the court.

The March 19 collision with Murdock's car shattered Franks' right wrist and right femur, and "destroyed" his right shoulder. Head injuries have impacted Franks' emotional state, but he has learned to walk again in a "very deliberate" fashion, according to Welch, who said damages in a civil suit could amount to $5 million.

Franks spent five weeks in the intensive care unit of a hospital, followed by two months at a rehabilitation facility. He was still unconscious when his father, 95-year-old Herm Franks Sr. -- a former baseball manager for the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs -- passed away in April.

But Franks is not vindictive, said Welch. He only requires of Murdock "some degree of accountability."

During his apology, Murdock told the judge that fleeing the crash was "the biggest mistake I've ever made in my life."

Defense attorney Jeremy Delicino said Murdock's remorse was demonstrated by pleading guilty as charged to three misdemeanors. But prosecutor Kristin Zimmerman countered that because the state's case was so strong, Murdock's only options were plead guilty or go to trial.

Immediately before the crash, Murdock told his female passenger he liked to speed around the corner at 6200 South and Wasatch Boulevard. Murdock accelerated, took the turn too fast, crossed the center line and hit Franks head-on. The cyclist hit the hood and windshield and vaulted over the car's roof.

Zimmerman said witnesses tried to follow Murdock's white BMW, but he drove too fast for them to keep up.

And although Murdock's passenger later told police he had been drinking during dinner, police were unable to investigate a possible DUI because Murdock had fled.

Murdock parked the car at his mothers house, draped the front-end damage and stacked items behind it to hide the license plate, Zimmerman said. Murdock invented a cover story by texting his female passenger: "We hit a deer."

Police tracked down Murdock about a week later by getting a list of similar white BMWs registered in the county, then investigating each one.

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The case:

On March 19, Nicholas T. Murdock, 28, took a corner too fast at 6200 South and Wasatch Boulevard and hit 57-year-old bicyclist Herm Franks.

Murdock pleaded guilty as charged to Class A misdemeanor counts of failing to remain at the accident scene and obstructing justice; and Class B misdemeanor reckless driving.

Murdock was sentenced to nine months in jail. But if he completes an in-jail substance abuse program, he can request early release after spending four months behind bars.