BANGKOK—A Thai-American woman living in Michigan who fled to Thailand after allegedly being involved in a hit-and-run accident that killed a college student has agreed to return to the United States to face charges, police said Wednesday.
Tubtim “Sue” Howson, 57, allegedly struck Michigan State University student Benjamin Kable, 22, shortly before dawn on Jan. 1, and according to U.S. authorities, flew to Thailand on a one-way ticket on Jan. 3. The accident took place in Oakland County, Michigan.
A state charge of failing to stop at a serious accident was filed on Feb. 2. and a federal charge related to her flying out of the country was filed on Feb. 6.
Thai deputy national police chief Surachate Hakparn, speaking at a news conference also attended by Howson, announced she intends to return to the United States to face charges, and preparations were being made for her to fly back before Sunday.
“I left home for work around 5.30 a.m. to 6 a.m. It is the wintertime and it was very dark. There was usually nobody walking on the road there, except deer,” Howson said, recounting the accident. She said she initially thought she had hit a deer, but when asked later why she fled to Thailand, responded that when she saw Kable’s body, she thought he must be dead.
“I did not think I would run away, but I was very shocked. I tried to call the police but my hands were shaking. I could not do anything,” she said.
The FBI, when it filed a federal charge against her, noted in a court filing that she was originally from Thailand and allegedly told a close associate after the crash that she thought she killed somebody and she was going back to Thailand.
“When encouraged to turn herself in to police, Howson allegedly stated, ‘no cops, no cops,’” FBI agent Matthew Schuff said in the filing.
Howson arrived in Thailand on Jan. 5, and police said they started to trace her on Jan. 12 at the FBI’s request, finding her on Jan. 14 in the western province of Ratchaburi, where they suggested she turn herself in.
Thailand and the United States have an extradition treaty, and if a suspect challenges an extradition order, it must go through a Thai court, which can be a lengthy process.
Surachate said Howson has been working and living in Michigan with her family and two children for more than 20 years.
“We did not arrest her. After she knew the facts, she showed the intention to accept the punishment in the U.S.,” he said. “This will be a good example for Thai society.”
By Chalida Ekvittayavechnukul