SALT LAKE CITY – The repossession agent showed up around midnight to a cul-de-sac in a small Utah city, his girlfriend a passenger in his company tow truck. As he backed up to a driveway to take back an SUV belonging to a woman who had fallen behind on a title loan, her husband came outside to intervene.
An argument ensued. A gentleman's agreement was made. But when the woman fled in her car, breaking the agreement, the angry repo man sped after to start what prosecutors describe as a high-speed, reckless chase through the streets of Pleasant Grove, Utah.
It ended tragically, authorities say, when the repo agent's tow truck forced the woman's car off the road and her 2002 Lincoln Navigator smashed into a tree, killing her.
The repossession agent, Kenneth Drew, 49, made his first court appearance Wednesday in Provo after being charged with manslaughter. His attorney Loni DeLand declined comment.
The deceased, Ashleigh Best, 35, leaves behind two children. Police say the family had recently moved to Utah to improve their financial stability. A phone listing for the Best family couldn't be found.
Drew told investigators he was just following Best on May 17 to keep an eye on the SUV, charging documents show. Investigators, however, say evidence, including pictures and GPS data from the tow truck, show Drew's story doesn't match what happened.
"He was chasing Mrs. Best recklessly and the inconsistencies in his account indicate that he was aware of wrongdoing and trying to mitigate his liability," prosecutors wrote in the charging documents.
In charging documents, prosecutors paint a picture of an intense encounter that escalated quickly.
After the initial argument between Drew and Brennen Best, the woman's husband, Drew agreed to leave the SUV alone and allow the couple time to go update their payments and come back to show him proof, charging documents show.
But instead, Brennen Best instructed his wife to take her car to her mother's house.
As Ashleigh Best drove around the tow truck, a neighbor's security camera shows Drew trying to box Best in against a curb as both cars accelerated. A neighbor reported hearing raised voices and cars peeling out. Ashleigh Best escaped, and the pursuit began.
Later in the chase, prosecutors say Drew drove alongside Best's SUV, grinding his rear right tire into her door. Going faster than 50 mph, Best jumped a curb and smashed into a tree. She died a short time later.
Drew initially told investigators he didn't force her off the road, but that she sped past him, fish-tailed and hit the tree. Confronted with evidence investigators had gathered, Drew later said he may have used his truck to try and end the chase and said he didn't really remember how the crash occurred.
His girlfriend said she wasn't sure if he meant to run Ashleigh Best off the road, but said she was scared throughout the chase.
Police say it's illegal for repo men to use force to reclaim vehicles.