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Hartley Trial Day 3: Motorcyclist Accused in Elko New Market Hit-and-Run Takes the Stand

February 10, 2017 05:45 AM

The man accused of hitting and killing a National Guard soldier with his motorcycle took the stand in his own defense Thursday.

Matthew Hartley, 34, didn't deny that he left the scene of a September deadly crash. He said he picked up his bike and rode off because he "didn't know he hit anyone."

Prosecutors say Hartley killed Army Specialist Mollie Mahowald in a hit-and-run.

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On Thursday afternoon, Hartley took the stand to tell his side of the story and answer questions from his defense attorney Robert Miller.

He testified that he was not drunk and had not consumed any alcohol the night of Sept. 24. He told the jury he was at a bar in Elko New Market with several friends until right around closing time.

Hartley told the jury he was driving his motorcycle down a dark, dirt road when he watched Mahowald, "take four or five steps toward the middle of the road." Hartley said then he crashed.

He told the jury he didn't realize he hit anyone, so he picked up his bike and rode off. He later testified that he put his damaged motorcycle "near some bushes" on the property of a friends' home where he had be staying.

Hartley got emotional when speaking about the moments he learned that Mahowald was hit and killed. He said he called and told his parents that he didn't know what happened, but that they urged him to "turn himself in."

His testimony followed several expert witnesses from the prosecution, including the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Mahowald and the Minnesota State Patrol lieutenant who conducted the crash reconstruction.

Lt. Chad Koehler said the evidence at the scene included a large mark in the dirt road on the left hand side, followed by scratches. He concluded those marks were from a motorcycle hitting the road and sliding.

On Wednesday, witnesses for the state testified that Hartley was acting drunk and was driving his motorcycle on the wrong side of the road.

RELATED: Hartley Trial Day 2: Prosecutors Bring More Witnesses to the Stand

Hartley's attorneys said there's little scientific evidence to prove that.

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Kirsten Swanson and Rebecca Omastiak

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