Victim Identified in Fatal Hit-and-Run That Resulted in Murder Charge

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DES MOINES, Iowa – Court documents have identified the woman killed in a hit-and-run crash in Des Moines Sunday morning.

According the criminal complaints against 49-year-old Jason Sassman, who is charged with first degree murder and animal neglect in the case, the victim was 38 year-old Lauren Rice of Des Moines.

Emergency crews were dispatched to the 1700 block of Beaver Ave. around 8:13 a.m. Sunday after receiving reports a pedestrian had been hit by a truck. When first responders arrived, they found Rice deceased.

For the past 10 years Rice taught English and Literature at Des Moines Area Community College campus in Newton. According to the campus’s provost Dr. Joe DeHart, Rice was extremely involved within the campus community, helping lead the annual DMACC Celebration of Literary Arts Festival, hosting events with award-winning authors on the Newton campus. She was also head of the London study abroad program.

“She was truly passionate about a lot of things other than English and literature, she was a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion.She was an advocate for social justice and involved in a lot of causes she ran our writing center to help students who needed extra help writing she was running the procrastinators book club so they would pick a book and they would talk about it, not only students but faculty and staff so she was a leader on campus and that’s a void that’s not going to be easily filled,” said Dr. DeHart.

The college is planning hosting a ceremony of life for Rice at a later date.

Police say Sassman was driving the vehicle that hit Rice and he initially fled the scene on foot but was taken into custody nearby without incident.

Police say evidence at the scene as well as interviews with witnesses indicate Sassman was speeding northbound in the 1700 block of Beaver Ave. when he left the roadway, hit and severed a utility pole, went through residential yards and drove on the sidewalk, before hitting Rice and her dog, Holiday. the dog also died at the scene.

According to the complaint, “Defendant did willfully, deliberately and with premeditation kill Lauren Rice by running her over with a motor vehicle.”

Sassman is being held in the Polk County Jail on a bond of $1 million.

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