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Children endangered by man’s reckless driving

By Neal Wagner | Shelby County Reporter

A 24-year-old Clanton man is facing several criminal charges after he allegedly attempted to fraudulently repossess a man’s vehicle before injuring the victim and then fleeing the scene and driving recklessly while two small children were in the car.

The Alabaster Police Department arrested Phillip Merl Smitherman Jr., who lists an address on Chilton County Road 47 in Clanton, on Dec. 11 and charged him with one felony count of attempted theft of property, two misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child, one misdemeanor count of reckless endangerment and one misdemeanor count of third-degree assault.

The charges came after Smitherman allegedly “attempted to repossess (an) automobile that was not due to be repossessed” by attempting to take custody of an Alabaster man’s 1998 GMC Suburban. When the victim confronted the suspect, Smitherman allegedly fled the scene in his own vehicle, striking the victim with his vehicle in the process.

According to Alabaster Police Chief Curtis Rigney, a 3-year-old child and a 4-year-old child were riding as passengers in Smitherman’s vehicle when the suspect allegedly fled the scene and proceeded to drive recklessly. Smitherman was “a parent, guardian or other person legally charged with the care or custody” of the children, according to court documents.

Alabaster police received several calls reporting a reckless driver traveling through the city, and attempted to intercept the suspect at several locations. Police caught up to the suspect and apprehended him after Smitherman collided with an Alabama Power truck in the 800 block of U.S. 31.

The children were not injured in the incident, and were placed in safe custody after Smitherman’s arrest, Rigney said. As of Dec. 14, Smitherman remained in the Shelby County Jail on bonds totaling $18,500.

Attempted theft of property is a Class C felony, and carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison upon conviction.