CLAYTON • Criminal and civil complaints accusing Sunset Hills Mayor Mark Furrer of striking a bicycle rider with his car as the two men traded insults in 2014 have been dropped.
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch said Wednesday that the victim in the crash “significantly embellished” his testimony at a trial last month, dealing a fatal blow to the case.
The cyclist, Randy Murdick, of Fenton, dropped a separate civil lawsuit Wednesday, according to his lawyer, Gary K. Burger Jr. Burger declined to comment further and said he doubted his client would talk. Murdick did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Asked about the embellishments in a news conference Wednesday afternoon, McCulloch mentioned Murdick’s claims about the extent of damage to his bicycle, as well as his claim that he was unable to ride it after the crash.
McCulloch said the “real tragedy” was that the embellishments were not about facts material to the case. He said that he believes the two independent witnesses who said that Furrer “turned into (Murdick) intentionally, intending to cause physical injury.”
McCulloch said that a perjury charge was not appropriate against Murdick because the issues were not material to the case, as required by the statute covering perjury. But he said Murdick lost credibility for further testimony.
Questions implying that Furrer might have offered a settlement in the civil case had led St. Louis County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Prebil in December to declare a mistrial on criminal charges and send jurors home. Furrer’s lawyers had denied making any offer.
At the time, McCulloch called Prebil’s move “drastic and unwarranted” and pledged to take Furrer to trial again on felony charges of second-degree assault and property damage.
Dan Bruntrager, one of Furrer’s lawyers, said Wednesday he was “elated” at the dismissal, and that, “At least they did the right thing ... and realized the inconsistencies of the story.”
He said that the witness testimony was inconsistent, and didn’t add up to “intentionally jerking the car at the accuser.”
On his Facebook page, Furrer wrote, “To be accused of something that did not happen is horrifying. But even worse is the response of those that declared me guilty, in a country where you are innocent until proven guilty this is unforgivable and will not be forgotten.”
Another lawyer for Furrer, Thomas J. Magee, said that although Murdick claimed that he could never use the bike again, the defense obtained Facebook pictures of him later riding an identical bike in races. McGee said Murdick claimed to have borrowed that bike from a friend, who was scheduled to testify in a deposition Feb. 5.
Magee also said that hospital records and Murdick’s continued riding long distances contradicted claims that he could not work for three months because of a torn Achilles tendon.
He said that jurors, after the mistrial, “told us they did not believe it was intentional” or “a criminal act.”
The mayor allegedly struck Murdick on July 29, 2014, with his red 1991 Mercedes Benz convertible on Old Gravois Road just west of its T-intersection with Kennerly and Weber Hill roads. Two witnesses, one watching from the east and the other from the west, backed Murdick’s account.
Murdick said the collision badly damaged his road-racing bike, worth $12,000.
He and Furrer admitted exchanging profanities in a rolling encounter. Furrer said Murdick rode through the stop sign, which the cyclist denied. Murdick said the mayor struck him with the car, causing him to roll over its trunk and fall to the pavement.
Furrer, a retired banker, was elected mayor as a write-in candidate in April 2014 and is not seeking re-election. Murdick is a union electrician.