A man who admitted fleeing an August hit-and-run crash that killed a Fountain pedestrian was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison. Richard Bitters, 42, had faced up to 30 years behind bars after pleading guilty in January in the death of Mario Michael Wells. Instead the judge chose the minimum - partly because of his decision to confess once police had tracked him down, and to admit his crime in court.

"I don't always see remorse," said 4th Judicial District Chief Judge William Bain.

Bain said a lengthy prison sentence was appropriate because Bitters made a conscious decision to leave Wells to an "ignominious" death in the street. Wells, 57, was hit by a pickup while walking home from a tavern in Fountain and died at a hospital. Bitters was tracked down by authorities two days after he fled in a pickup, based on a tip from the public. He told police he was afraid of the consequences because he was serving a community corrections sentence at the time and had three prior felonies, two of them for drug offenses and one for supplying false information to a pawnbroker.

His criminal record meant Bitters could have faced up to 48 years in prison had prosecutors taken the case to trial, the judge said. Bain said the case should send "an enormous message" to the public about the gravity of fleeing crashes where someone was injured.

A witness summoned emergency crews after the crash, and Wells received prompt medical attention, but his injuries were too severe for doctors to save him, authorities said.

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I cover legal affairs for The Gazette, with an emphasis on the criminal courts. Tips to lance.benzel@gazette.com

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