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Police still seeking Ronan hit-and-run driver

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RONAN — Lake County Undersheriff Dan Yonkin said officials continue to investigate the Dec. 11 hit-and-run death of 63-year-old Robert E. Vanguten.

According to a press release, Lake County 911 received a report of an unresponsive adult male lying the parking lot of a Ronan tavern Dec. 11 around 8:15 p.m. 

Personnel from the Ronan Police Department, Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Montana Highway Patrol, Flathead Tribal Police and the Lake County Coroner responded to the scene. Emergency personnel attempted to revive Vanguten at the scene but were unsuccessful. He was transported to St. Luke Community Hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival. 

Yonkin said Vanguten was struck by a vehicle which fled the scene. Yonkin confirmed this as the cause of death and said the deceased had been lying in the parking lot for some time before he was discovered. Officials believe Vanguten was hit within a half hour of 7:30 p.m. 

There were no witnesses.

“(The investigation) is still ongoing,” Yonkin said. “We continue to wait for some progress to be made at the crime lab and for them to get us some additional information ... I can’t comment on what type of evidence they have, but I can assure you they have some stuff they’re going through.”

The Montana Highway Patrol assisted in the investigation as the MHP has specialized equipment to survey, measure and document the crime scene. This provides a more accurate and detailed map of the area for investigators to draw from. 

“At this point we don’t know if (the homicide) was negligent, personal or what the situation or story was,” Yonkin said. 

As there is no statute of limitations on homicides, the case will remain open indefinitely or until investigators find the hit-and-run driver.

“I continue to have the same stance I had when this originated,” Yonkin said, speaking directly to the driver. “Do the right thing; come forward; address the issue for the community’s sake and for the family’s sake. 

“These things that drag on for years don’t do anybody any good.”

The public is asked to report any relevant information to Lake County Crimestoppers at (406) 883-7309.

“Obviously, if anyone has some information that might be helpful for us, we would welcome them to come forward,” Yonkin said.

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