Police: Man who claimed to be passenger in fatal crash was actually the driver

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A Zionsville man has been charged in the death of his friend a year and a half after he allegedly crashed his car and pretended his injured friend had been driving it.

Jack H. Kaplan, 22, Zionsville, was arrested on a warrant Wednesday after failing to turn himself in as agreed, said Ken Conley, Boone County Sheriff’s deputy and public information officer. Kaplan was booked into the Boone County Jail about 7 p.m. and was released on a bond of $25,005 within two hours.

Kaplan is accused of driving while intoxicated and wrecking his car, fatally injuring his passenger, 21-year-old James Dupler of Zionsville, on Oct. 20, 2016.

Boone County Fatal Alcohol Crash Team investigators believe Kaplan removed Dupler from the passenger seat and left him on the ground next to the driver’s side after crashing into a tree. Kaplan is accused of then sitting in the passenger side of the vehicle to await help.

Kaplan called his father, David Kaplan, instead of 911 and waited for his father to arrive at the crash and to call police, according to court records. Emergency responders said they found Kaplan in his father’s vehicle and Dupler on the ground near the driver’s side of the Explorer at County Road 300 South (also called 146th Street), just west of U.S. 421.

In all, Jack Kaplan was at the site nearly an hour before help arrived, police said. It took 26 minutes from the time he called his father to when his father called 911. Investigators estimate father and son had about 20 minutes alone at the crash site before emergency responders arrived within seven minutes of the father’s call, police said.

The younger Kaplan told police he and Dupler had been at an Indianapolis sports bar to watch a baseball game and had food, beer and a shot of alcohol, and then went to Marsh after that for snacks. Police concluded that Dupler bought bourbon at Marsh and both men had a swig before leaving the store grounds.

Kaplan told police he thought he was too drunk to drive and insisted that Dupler drive from the Marsh store.

Dupler was taken to St. Vincent Hospital Indianapolis, a trauma center. He died there, an estimated 2½ hours after the crash. The attending physician’s assessment said Dupler had several injuries, including a non-survivable traumatic head injury.

The elder Kaplan said he would drive his son to St. Vincent, but police later found them at Indiana University Health North Hospital in Indianapolis. The younger Kaplan was treated for an abrasion and small lacerations and released, according to court records.

The younger Kaplan’s attending physician noted, “Interestingly, father declined EMS transport and brought patient to this facility, a non-trauma hospital, despite patient’s apparent loss of consciousness.”

The passenger side of the vehicle was the most severely damaged, according to Boone County Sheriff’s Cpt. Mike Beard’s report. The doctor who performed Dupler’s autopsy concluded that the right side of his head and scalp were injured and his injuries indicated that he was on the passenger side of the vehicle when it crashed.

The doctor reported that Dupler was rendered unconscious by the crash and remained unconscious until lifesaving attempts ceased. She said it was “highly unlikely” that based on Dupler’s injuries he would have been able to free himself from the vehicle.

Investigators collected DNA samples from Dupler, Jack Kaplan and the Ford Explorer. DNA linked Jack Kaplan to the driver’s seat, driver’s headrest and steering wheel and excluded Dupler from those items. DNA also linked both occupants to the passenger side headliner.

The investigation took a long time because of waiting for DNA results and poring over the facts, Conley said, adding, “It took a lot of legwork.”

Boone County Deputy Prosecutor Brandon Knight filed the following charges against Jack Kaplan on Wednesday: failure to remain at the scene of an accident, reckless homicide, failure to remain at the scene of an accident resulting in death, causing death when operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, causing death when operating a vehicle with an ACE of .08 or more, obstruction of justice, operating a vehicle while intoxicated endangering a person, operating a vehicle while intoxicated, operating a vehicle with an ACE of .08 or more and public intoxication.

His initial hearing is scheduled for May 23.

“I want to extend my heartfelt sorrow to the Dupler family for their loss,” Sheriff Mike Nielsen said in a statement. “This is a sad and tragic event where no one wins in the end. But Mr. Kaplan will have his day in court, and hopefully the truth will prevail.”

Dupler’s family released the following statement: “Our family would like to sincerely thank the tireless efforts of the Boone County investigative team in finding the truth and honoring James’ memory. There is hope in Jesus, and a measure of peace in knowing the truth. We would also like to thank our family, friends and Trader’s Point Christian Church for their love and continued prayers of support.”

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