Family remembers bicyclist killed in hit-and-run; forgives driver who struck him

TREVOR -- Jackie Hutcheson Jr. was killed on Sept. 17, 2017 while riding his bicycle on a rural road in Trevor in Kenosha County. The driver who struck the 29-year-old bicyclist was convicted and sentenced to prison, but there was one more thing Hutcheson's family was still trying to come to terms with one year after his death.

Delise Hutcheson and Jack Hutcheson Sr.

"Some days it seems like it's been forever and other days it seems like it just happened the other day," said his father, Jack Hutcheson Senior, at a balloon launch on September 16th.

Jackie Hutcheson Jr.

Ryan Peterson

Prosecutors say Ryan Peterson admitted to drinking before the crash and told authorities he "thought he hit a deer" before going home. Despite the fact that prosecutors said Peterson admitted to drinking before and after the crash, he wasn't charged with OWI.

On March 29th, Peterson pleaded guilty to one count of hit-and-run involving death. On May 21, he was sentenced to serve three years in prison and two years extended supervision. His license was revoked for five years. A charge of homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle was dismissed as a result of the plea deal, as was a citation for inattentive driving and a citation for failure to notify police of an accident.

"It doesn't just wreck one family. It wrecks a whole community," said Gina Maddox, Jackie's sister at the memorial vigil.

Jackie Hutcheson Jr. was riding northbound on Highway JF (260th Avenue) near Highway C (Wilmot Road) around 9:45 p.m. on Sept. 17, 2017 when he was struck by the vehicle driven by Peterson, also headed northbound. Hutcheson Jr. died at the scene.

Ryan Peterson

On Sunday, Sept. 16, Hutcheson's family held a balloon release and unveiled a "ghost bike" set up where Hutcheson was killed.

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"It's there to remind people that somebody has been killed here at this site," said Maddox.

Gina Maddox

The speed limit in the area is 35 miles-per-hour. A passerby found Hutcheson Jr.'s bike on its side at the scene. Prosecutors said an investigation revealed Peterson did not attempt to slow down or maneuver to avoid the collision. Hutcheson was struck from behind by the vehicle which had been traveling on the gravel shoulder.

One day after the crash, investigators were contacted by Peterson's wife, who indicated she had learned that her husband "thought he hit a deer" on Highway JR around the time of this crash -- and he did not stop at the scene.

Investigators spoke with Peterson, who indicated while heading northbound on Highway JF, he "became distracted as he attempted to plug in his cellphone," and he hit something he thought was a deer. His passenger side windshield was shattered, and Peterson said he slowed down and checked his rearview mirror, and didn't see anything, so he went home.

When he got home, he and his wife checked the damage to his Volvo, and put it in the garage.

The complaint indicates Peterson told investigators he'd had "several alcoholic drinks" earlier in the day before the crash, and a couple more when he got home, but he said he believed he was sober at the time of the crash. The timeline he offered was that he had dinner at his brother's house and consumed three drinks in the afternoon before dinner, and two more during dinner. He said he watched the first half of the Packers' game at his brother's house before driving himself home. After the crash, when he returned home, he said he had a couple more beers while finishing the Packers' game.

Jack Hutcheson Sr.

Hutcheson's family said they've been able to forgive Peterson for his actions.

"In my heart, I forgive the guy that done this because otherwise it's going to eat me up like cancer and I have to learn to forgive," said Jack Hutcheson Sr.

Jackie Hutcheson Jr.

Before Jackie Hutcheson Jr.'s death, he was planning to donate his hair to an organization that helps kids with cancer. His family was able to make that happen after his death, and they're now planning to donate theirs in his memory.