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Still Unsolved One Year Later

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Hit-and-Run Claimed Life of Mills County Man

By Joel Stevens, Associate Editor

CeCe Spotts still can’t bring herself to drive by the scene.

Just an anonymous piece of concrete and gravel along northbound Interstate 29, not far from the 43 mile marker to most, to Spotts it’s where she lost her father.

Joseph Spotts was killed by a hit-and-run driver on June 1, 2008, while helping a friend who had run out of gas.

“I just don’t like driving on the interstate,” said Spotts, 22.

More than a year later, the driver of the vehicle that killed Spotts, 58, and drove off remains at large. The case is still considered open but no new evidence or tips have been logged in over six months, said Sgt. Bryan Michelsen of the Iowa State Patrol.

“If we come across a lead we will investigate it but as of now, we’ve exhausted all options,” Michelsen said.

According to the state patrol the Spotts’ case is the only unsolved hit-and-run fatality in Mills or Pottawattamie counties.

It’s been more than a year since CeCe and sister Libby, 26, lost their father and while CeCe’s anger at the driver has faded, she still misses the man who raised his daughters by himself and never turned down an opportunity to help someone in need.

“I think I’m over the anger. Obviously I still feel angry that he died but it’s not primarily on the driver. The driver has to feel guilty about what has happened but I’m not angry. I’ve just had to grasp everything and try and move on,” she said. “Being as young as I was I feel like I’ve grown up a lot since then.”

The official report of the accident says it was shortly after 11:30 p.m. on June 1 when Spotts pulled his car just past the minivan owned by a friend who had ran out of gas on northbound I-29 south of Council Bluffs. While putting gas into the vehicle he was struck by a full-size Dodge pickup truck, thrown into the minivan and then into his own vehicle. Spotts died at the scene.

The driver of the Dodge pickup did not stop.

Helping someone in need, as her father was that night, CeCe said, was who her father was.

“Since he passed people have come up to me and told me how many times they were stranded or needed a lift and he would drive them to where they live, 10 or 20 miles, to get something they needed or drive them to get gas or change a tire,” she said. “It was very typical of him to help someone when they needed him.

“He was a wonderful guy. He was the type of guy you could talk about any issue that needed to be brought up,” she said. “He was very comforting. He always had advice for everything.”

It was that giving nature, CeCe said, that encouraged both she and Libby to help others. Libby works in student development at the University of Iowa and CeCe starts graduate school in community counseling this fall.

“I think we both got that from our dad,” CeCe said. “He was loved by everybody. All of my friends and my sister's friends considered him a father. But I think most of all, the best quality he had was that he was such a great person no matter what you were talking about. His hugs could cure anything, whether you were sad or happy or angry. His hugs just seemed to make everything better.

“He was a great guy – he was our mother, our father, he was everything.”

More than 50 tips have been called into the state patrol since last June.

Investigators pieced together physical evidence gathered at the scene, including fragments of a headlight belonging to the hit-and-run vehicle and paint chips and have determined the headlight belonged to a 1994 to 2002 full-size Dodge pick-up. Paint chips left at the scene indicated the pick up was forest green. Troopers have visually inspected nearly 300 Dodge pick-ups registered in Pottawattamie County.