Hamilton fatal hit-and-run suspect appears in court

Posted at 10:57 AM, Jul 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-09 13:14:54-04

HAMILTON – The suspect in Sunday’s hit and run in Hamilton that resulted in the death of a 9-year-old boy appeared in court for the first time Monday afternoon.

Joseph McNamara, 59, has been charged with negligent homicide and failure to remain at an accident in connection with the boy’s death.

McNamara appeared in Ravalli County Justice Court after he reportedly fled the scene of the crash and led authorities on a nearly six-hour manhunt Sunday.

According to several witnesses, McNamara was traveling east on Golf Course Road at rates almost double the posted speed limit, when he hit the 9-year-old boy who was crossing the street or walking a scooter.

Court documents state McNamara got out of his car and approached the boy. The boy’s father then ran from their house, handed McNamara his phone and asked him to call 911.

McNamara kept the phone and drove east. He later visited his girlfriend, who told authorities he had drank at least one beer previously that day. McNamara told her he hit something and asked for a ride. She refused, and McNamara then left on foot.

He was found at a residence after a nearly six-hour search and was arrested without incident.

During Monday’s court appearance, prosecuting attorney Angela Wetzsteon expressed concern for McNamara’s “transient” nature.

“The nature of the charges speak for themselves. But ultimately, I think it’s the defendant’s conduct in this case that is most enlightening,” Wetzsteon said. “He knew what he did, he knew how serious it was, and he did his best efforts to get away from law enforcement to not be accountable for this conduct.”

McNamara refused a blood test and claimed he had “smoked something” after the crash.

A judge set bail for McNamara at $500,000. Additionally, he is not allowed to purchase alcohol or have contact with the family or girlfriend. McNamara is due back in court on either July 24 or July 25.

McNamara said in court Monday that he was threatened at gunpoint while driving his vehicle, and that he left the scene because of those threats. However, no witness accounts reported anyone else in his car, and photographs also did not show anyone else in the van.