Wednesday, August 10, 2023–10:04 a.m.
-Jeremy Stewart, Polk Standard Journal-
This story is possible because of a news-sharing agreement with the Rome News-Tribune. More information can be found at northwestgeorgianews.com.
An Aragon man was sentenced to serve five years in prison after hitting a man on a bicycle while driving along a Cedartown road and failing to contact police or first responders, leading to his death.
Ralph “Ryan” Dover III, 41, was convicted of felony hit and run resulting in serious injury or death and misdemeanor reckless conduct last month in connection with a September 2019 incident where he hit Eric Keais on North Main Street.
Prosecutors said because Dover didn’t immediately report the incident to the proper authorities — instead driving to a convenience store and calling a friend — it stretched out the time before Keais got medical care.
Dover received the maximum sentence for the felony crime allowed under state law, which was the prosecution’s recommendation. The sentence was merged with the misdemeanor count.
Cobb County Senior Judge Mary Staley handed down the sentence following a short hearing Tuesday morning in Polk County Superior Court. Members of the victim’s family were present, and his brother addressed Staley.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about this,” Aaron Keais said. “Justice is justice. He was a good person. He didn’t deserve this. It shouldn’t have happened. But it did. We will never get over this.”
In her remarks before announcing the sentence, Staley emphasized that Dover’s actions directly led to Keais’ death and his family’s loss.
“Your mother will be able to visit you while in custody, but Mr. Keais’ father will not be able to visit his son except at his gravesite,” Staley said, adding that she hoped Dover would reflect on accepting responsibility so he could move forward and be better for it while serving his time.
“I’m pleased with the verdict and the judge’s sentence, and that we were able to bring some sense of closure to the family,” Tallapoosa Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jack Browning said.
“The family was given the opportunity to address the court and, while expressing sorrow that no court proceeding could ever fill the hole left by Eric’s untimely and senseless death, they were pleased that justice had been served, and were thankful for the attention and concern shown by all in the court system throughout Eric’s case.”
Dover was driving south on North Main Street in Cedartown the evening of Sept. 11, 2019, when he struck Keais, who was traveling in the same direction. Testimony indicated that Dover drove more than half of a mile down the road after the collision to a convenience store instead of stopping sooner. He didn’t call police or 911, instead calling a friend, state Rep. Trey Kelley.
It wasn’t until around 40 minutes later that any law enforcement personnel was notified. It was even longer before Keais was found by Cedartown police down an embankment on the side of the road and emergency medical services were called out to the scene.
Prosecutors said because Dover didn’t immediately report the incident to proper authorities it stretched out the time before Eric Keais got medical care, leading to his death.
Dover testified that he knew he hit something but did not think it was a person and didn’t see anyone on a bicycle near where the collision took place.
“That is a long way to go, and a long time to wait, before anyone was there to help Mr. Keias,” Staley said before announcing the sentence. “Calling a friend is seen more as a way of trying to get out of something than trying to figure out what to do.”
Dover’s attorney Brian McWhorter argued that there was a distinction between what the case was and was not about, adding that Dover was never charged in causing the accident or vehicular homicide.
McWhorter requested any sentence be probated, stating that Dover had been held in Polk County Jail without issue since his conviction on July 25, had no prior criminal history and did not present a threat to the public.
Kelley was initially indicted for reckless conduct in connection with the incident, but a judge dismissed the charge in December 2021, ruling that Kelley was not directly involved in the crash.