A Thai-American woman living in Michigan who fled to Thailand after allegedly being involved in a crash that killed a college student has agreed to return to the United States to face charges, police said Wednesday.
Tubtim “Sue” Howson, 57, allegedly punched Michigan State University student Benjamin Cable22, shortly before dawn on January 1 and, according to US authorities, flew to Thailand on a one-way ticket on January 3. The accident happened in Oakland County, Michigan.
The state charge of failing to stop for a serious accident was filed on February 2nd, and the federal charge related to her leaving the country was filed on February 6th.
Thailand’s deputy national police chief, Surachate Hakparn, speaking at a news conference that was also attended by Howson, announced that she intended to return to the United States to face charges, and that preparations were underway for her return by Sunday.
“I left home for work around 5.30am to 6am. It is winter and it was very dark. There was usually no one walking on the road there except deer,” Howson said, recounting the accident. She said she thought she had hit a deer at first, but when later asked why she fled to Thailand, she said that when she saw Cable’s body, she thought he must be dead.
“I didn’t think I would run away, but I was very shocked. I tried to call the police, but my hands were shaking. I couldn’t do anything,” she said.
When the FBI filed federal charges against her, it noted in a court filing that she was originally from Thailand and allegedly told a close associate after the crash that she thought she had killed someone and that she was returning to Thailand.
“When encouraged to surrender to police, Howson allegedly stated, ‘No cops, no cops,'” FBI agent Matthew Shoof said in a statement.
Howson arrived in Thailand on January 5, and police said they began searching for her on January 12 at the request of the FBI, finding her on January 14 in the western province of Ratchaburi, where she was told to turn herself in.
Thailand and the US 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.
Surachet said Howson has worked and lived in Michigan with his family and two children for more than 20 years.
“We did not arrest her. After she learned the facts, she demonstrated her intention to accept the punishment in the United States,” he said. “It will be a good example for Thai society.”
The father of the deceased, Michael Cable, told about it earlier CBS Detroit that he hoped Howson would “do the right thing” and return to the United States
“Accidents happen, but you know people have to take responsibility for their actions,” he said. “It’s really hard to lose a child, but to lose a child like that and then realize that it’s someone out there who doesn’t have the compassion to call an ambulance or get help, it’s horrendously and honestly shakes your faith in humanity. I don’t understand how someone can be like that.”
Michael Cable told the Detroit News that the family is having a hard time coping with the death.
“I mean, it keeps the wound open,” Cable said. “Losing a child or a sibling, I don’t think you ever get over it, I think you always do. I think over a long period of time you learn to cope a little bit better, but it’s even more difficult…Obviously there’s some malice in it.”