A woman from Buffalo pleaded guilty on Monday for leaving the scene of a high-speed crash in which her vehicle hit and killed a bicyclist near Missouri State University last Nov. 17. Shannon Smith, 32, could face a prison sentence up to seven years when she’s sentenced, which could be on Sept. 25.
Smith hit and killed Zachary Gibson, 23, on that Sunday night at the corner of Kimbrough Avenue at Bear Boulevard just west of the campus. She told detectives that she thought she was going south at about 85 miles per hour to try to get away from an ex-boyfriend who had pointed a gun at her, then rammed her vehicle, and was chasing her in another vehicle.
Smith said Gibson pulled out in front of her, and she braked and swerved but couldn’t avoid the bicyclist, who died at the scene. She said she didn’t stop because she was scared of Blake Basten, who was chasing her.
After leaving the scene, police said, she abandoned her car in south Springfield and took a taxi. She later dyed her hair “a darker brown” to try to avoid arrest.
Just four days before the crash, Smith’s probation officer asked a judge to revoke her probation, which stemmed from an auto theft case in 2010. Court documents show Smith has a history of using methamphetamine. Pleading guilty for the hit-and-run crash could be a reason for a judge to revoke her probation for the case from 2010.
Basten, 24, is charged with second-degree murder for Gibson’s death. He also faces charges of second-degree assault, tampering with a motor vehicle, unlawful use of a weapon, property damage, leaving the scene of a crash and resisting a lawful detention. Prosecutors said the murder charge was appropriate because a person died while Basten was committing another felony; in this case, investigators said, he was driving a stolen vehicle as he chased Smith.
According to a detective's probable cause statement against Basten, Smith told detectives that Basten pulled up next to her as she was dropping off a friend on Nov. 17, saying she had items belonging to him and he wanted them back. Smith said Basten displayed a handgun before she drove away.
Smith pulled up to the intersection of Kansas Expressway and Lynn Avenue, where Basten pulled up beside her. She told Basten she would get the items after she picked them up from a friend's house. Smith said Basten then began chasing her throughout the city and that she intentionally drove fast to get pulled over.
Smith told a detective she pulled into the parking lot of Springfield police headquarters on Chestnut Expressway, and began honking her horn in an attempt to get help. Basten then rear-ended her vehicle twice, Smith said, and she sped away.
After leaving the police headquarters parking lot, Smith said she drove toward Kimbrough Avenue. When on Kimbrough, she said she saw a bicyclist ride into the street. She said she tried to avoid him but still hit Gibson as Basten kept chasing her vehicle.
The chase ended when Smith pulled into a driveway at an address that wasn't specified in the probable cause statement. Smith said Basten pulled behind her, but backed his vehicle up and sat at the end of the block as she was inside the home.
According to the probable cause statement, an unnamed woman who was with Smith at the time of the incident told a detective that Smith and Basten began arguing, and that Smith began to panic and asked "What do I do? He'll punch me in the face." The woman told police Smith was scared of Basten "because he always carried a gun."
The woman also told police Basten returned to the house Nov. 18, where Basten admitted to having a handgun.
Police reviewed surveillance footage from in front of police headquarters, and said Smith pulled into the parking lot at 6:39 p.m. in a white Chevy Impala, followed by Basten in a red Volkswagen Jetta. The detective noted Basten pulled closer "as if to intimidate [Smith]" then pulled forward again, hitting the rear of her vehicle. Smith then accelerated out of the lot with Basten following.
Five days after that incident, Basten fled from police in the Jetta and was taken into custody after he crashed into a building at Ozark Sandblasting, in the 3400 block of West Chestnut Expressway. The detective said the vehicle was confirmed stolen and was reported as such Nov. 1 by the Greene County Sheriff's Department.
The detective talked with the owner of the Impala involved in the crash with the cyclist, who told him that she had spoken with Basten after the crash. According to the vehicle's owner, Basten said he was following Smith and said Smith hit Gibson "so hard that he was able to drive under Gibson's body before he fell to the ground."
The vehicle's owner told a detective that he rammed the vehicle four or five times in the police department parking lot "to prevent her from going inside to get help."
Friends said Gibson was a kind spirit who enjoyed music, traveling, and bike riding.