A 49-year-old man arrested in connection with the hit-and-run death on July 14 of a pedestrian in North Topeka has no criminal convictions and has a steady job history, the man’s defense attorney said Tuesday.

Francis Edward Verschelden, of 1933 N.W. West, made his first appearance in Shawnee County District Court on Wednesday morning. He was booked into the Shawnee County Jail on Tuesday in connection with one count of an accident involving damage to a vehicle or property, which is a felony hit-and-run offense.

Eric Schneider, 53, was walking in the 500 block of N.W. Lyman Road at about 2:40 a.m. July 14 when he was struck by a vehicle and left lying on the pavement. He was transported to a Topeka hospital by American Medical Response ambulance and died soon after.

Kris Lawless, Verschelden’s defense attorney, told District Judge Jan Leuenberger that the proposed bond of $50,000 with professional surety was too high.

“He’s not a risk for flight,” Lawless said.

Verschelden, who doesn’t have a criminal record, has lived in Topeka for 20 years, is employed at Paper Stock Dealer and has family in town, Lawless said.

A permanent residence, steady employment and relatives living in town are some factors considered by judges determining how high to set bond for a defendant.

Verschelden, who is a truck driver and who has worked for the company for 32 years, has two children, including a son serving in Iraq in the military.

Three women and a man, all relatives of Verschelden, were in the tiny courtroom when Verschelden’s image flashed on a TV screen. First appearances are conducted via a TV hookup between jail and the courthouse.

Assistant Shawnee County District Attorney Tim Keck told the judge the $50,000 bond was “very reasonable,” noting Verschelden is accused of leaving the scene of a fatality accident.

Leuenberger declined to lower the bond from $50,000.

Verschelden was released from the Shawnee County Jail on Wednesday after the $50,000 bond was posted, said Capt. Tim Phelps, jail spokesman.

As of July 1, it became a felony in Kansas to leave accident scenes where someone is seriously injured or killed. Before that, it was a misdemeanor. As of Wednesday, the district attorney’s office hadn’t filed charges tied to Schneider’s death.

Steve Fry can be reached at 295-1206 or [email protected]


By Steve Fry

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