Woman accused of fleeing after fatal crash planned to steal vehicle, prosecutor says

Woman accused of fleeing after fatal crash planned to steal vehicle, prosecutor says
A 33-year-old Omaha woman test driving an SUV struck and killed a pedestrian at 24th and Leavenworth Streets on Friday, police said. (World-Herald News Service)

A woman accused of fatally striking a pedestrian with an SUV she was test-driving had planned to steal the vehicle and give it to someone else in order to get money, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Nickole Wheeler, 33, has been charged with leaving the scene of a personal injury accident resulting in death and theft by deception of $5,000 or more.

Douglas County Judge Derek Vaughn on Wednesday ordered Wheeler to be held on $250,000 bail. Officials have said Wheeler ran away Friday after the SUV she was driving fatally wounded a pedestrian.

Police say Wheeler was driving a GMC Envoy that struck 48-year-old Ruben Batres of Omaha about 1 p.m. Friday as he stood on a street corner near 24th and Leavenworth Streets. The SUV then struck a light pole and came to a stop.

Batres was taken from the crash site with lifesaving efforts in progress. He died a short time later.

Nickole Wheeler

Eric Fabian, a deputy Douglas County attorney, said in court Wednesday that Wheeler had provided a stolen Iowa ID to a car dealer near 24th and Leavenworth Streets in order to test drive the SUV. Fabian said she also gave a fake story about the reason she wanted to test drive the SUV. Wheeler had been given money to take the vehicle out on a test drive and then give it to another person, Fabian said.

After leaving the dealer’s lot, Fabian said, Wheeler met another person at a gas station and planned to follow his vehicle to another location, but the SUV struck Batres and crashed. Wheeler admitted to police that she was driving the SUV, Fabian said.

Security camera video from a nearby store shows the SUV driver jumping out of the vehicle and running east across 24th Street. Bystanders and at least three vehicles trailed her. She later was taken into custody with the help of a passing motorist.

Fabian said Wheeler also will be charged with misdemeanor motor vehicle homicide once the case is transferred to district court.