Man Faced Manslaughter Charge In Deadly St. Louis Crash, Until Prosecutors Learned He Wasn't Driving

ST. LOUIS • The Circuit Attorney’s Office has dropped criminal charges against a St. Louis man in a deadly crash in 2013 after learning that the man was not driving the car.

Prosecutors dismissed Thursday charges of involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action against Ronnie Spencer, 31, of the 2400 block of Shirley Avenue.

Spencer was accused of driving while drunk and high during a crash on North Kingshighway on Nov. 25, 2013, that killed Robert Gilbert, 31, a passenger in the car. Police estimated the car was speeding at 80 mph when it crashed after swerving to avoid another car, hitting a curb and flipping over.

Three men were ejected from the car; the driver had to be extricated. Gilbert died at the crash scene. He had lived in the 4700 block of Vernon Avenue.

Spencer, Gilbert and two other men in their 20s were in Spencer’s car that crashed on their way back from Metro East clubs, Spencer’s attorney Terence Niehoff said. He said all were intoxicated.

Niehoff said records obtained from the fire department identified another man whom paramedics extricated and treated at the scene, while police reports indicated only that it was the car’s driver who was pulled from the wreckage.

“That person is the one that fingered my guy as the driver,” Niehoff said. “We’ve always maintained that Ronnie was not the driver. He honestly didn’t know who was driving.”

Niehoff said Spencer spent about six months in jail before being released on bail.

A spokeswoman for Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner said in a statement Friday that Spencer was identified by witnesses as the driver, and prosecutors continued investigating after police pursued charges against Spencer.

“When pursuing justice, prosecutors must be open to going where the evidence takes them,” the statement said. “In this case, we determined that the wrong person was identified as the driver of the car and charges were dismissed.”

Spencer was charged in 2014. His trial was set for Jan. 28.

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