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Woman critically injured in hit and run crash attends suspect's court hearing

Ralph Dewayne Harding, Jr. is charged with leaving the scene of a crash that left Nancy Furnish near death and ultimately having both legs amputated.

MARION, Ind. (WTHR) - He ran from WTHR cameras but he couldn't run from the 83-year-old woman he's accused of striking in a hit-and-run crash last August.

Ralph Dewayne Harding, Jr. is charged with leaving the scene of a crash that left Nancy Furnish near death and ultimately having both legs amputated.

Harding and Furnish were in a Grant County courtroom on Monday for a pre-trial hearing. They sat just a row apart. He kept his head down and hands folded in this lap. The hearing was to decide whether to move forward with a trial or pursue a plea deal.

As she arrived in her motorized wheelchair with family and friends at her side, Furnish said, "I'm doing okay, just a nervous wreck."

Furnish was also in a wheelchair that August evening, heading home along the 1100 block of East 14th when she was struck head-on by a vehicle that didn't stop, allegedly driven by Harding.

Furnish's daughter Theresa Sloan said her mother, who'd been in good health and walked a lot, used a motorized wheelchair to get around, especially with her husband, who had one leg amputated.

According to the probable cause, Harding initially told police he wasn't wearing his glasses, that he thought he'd hit mailboxes, not a person.

Asked what she was hoping for, Furnish said, "I'm hoping he pays his debts," adding she wasn't concerned about prison. "Prison time won't pay bills."

Sloan said her mother's bills, including her critical care at the hospital, rehab and now nursing home stay are well over $400,000.

"Mom's a little more forgiving than I am," Sloan said. "I think he needs to have a harsh consequence. He could have took her life and he shows no remorse and we have bills we'll never be able to pay off."

She said she hopes for a trial and prison if convicted. Leaving the scene of an accident with serious injury is a level 6 felony which carries a maximum sentence of two-and-a-half-years in prison.

Hardin's attorney asked that the hearing be continued so his client had time to pre-qualify for in-home detention. The pre-trial conference was continued until February 26.

"We're looking at the possibility of her being sentenced to a nursing home for the rest of her life while he gets to go back to his home. It's not fair," Sloan said.

Asked what he was pursuing and why, Hardin's attorney, Douglas Martz said, "I can't comment on a pending case."

Grant County Prosecutor Jim Luttrull said there "will either be a trial or admission to charges. No plea deal has been offered."

After Hardin ran to a friend waiting in a car outside the courthouse after the hearing ended, we showed the video to Sloan.

At the end of one-minute long video, which ends with Hardin getting in the passenger seat and the driver taking off, she said, "he can't even stop to say he's sorry? I want my mom to go home and the only one going home is Harding. He's running there. My mom never will."

After that, Sloan walked alongside her mom as Furnish steered her wheelchair toward the bus station. She was headed to the nursing home where her husband was and she wanted to take the bus.

She and Sloan would be back at the courthouse next month. So would Hardin.