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Man Charged in Hit-and-Run Unapologetic

November 7, 1988

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ A man charged in a fatal 1986 hit-and-run said he was guilty only of leaving the scene after driving over a drunken man on a dark beach road and dragging him 60 feet.

″Had I stayed there five minutes and talked to a cop, it would have been all over with,″ William D. Morser said.

Authorities charged the Delray Beach restaurateur Sunday with leaving the scene of the accident, which killed Mark Baltes. The case received national attention because Morser’s identity was a secret for more than two years under the attorney-client privilege of confidentiality.

The dead man’s mother, Mildred Baltes of Middletown, N.Y., expressed joy that the driver’s identity had been discovered. ″I can’t tell you what a relief it is,″ she said. ″The one word that enters my minds is, ’Why? Why did you not come forward?‴

She and her ex-husband had filed a $6 million lawsuit in February against the then-unknown driver.

Morser, 55, confessed Saturday. Because he gave his statement under subpoena, nothing he told authorities can be used against him in a criminal case.

Morser blamed Baltes for being in the road in the middle of the night. Baltes, 28, had a blood alcohol level of 0.26 percent, more than 2 1/2 times the legal intoxication level in Florida.

″If there is a jury that won’t agree with that, then I’m living in the wrong country,″ Morser said. ″I feel like I have been the one taken advantage of, not the one lying on the ground.″

Morser told reporters he was driving with two elderly passengers early on March 9, 1986, when he saw something that looked like ″a pile of rags″ in the road.

Morser said he tried to straddle the rags, then realized he had hit something, but he didn’t realize he had hit a person until he read a newspaper the next day.

″What would you do if you had two 80-year-old passengers in the car who don’t need the kind of grief of looking at a dog, cat or person that you can do absolutely no good for at that point?″ he said.

″Why put them through that kind of grief?″ he asked. ″It was accidental. I feel like the engineer of a train.″

After learning that a man had been killed, he decided to seek a lawyer’s advice.

″I was not about to walk into a police station and say, ’Hey, fellows, I’m raw meat. Come and get me.‴

In the ensuing months, Morser’s attorney, Barry Krischer, refused to reveal his client’s identification to authorities or to Baltes’ family. Last month, a Palm Beach County judge ruled that Krischer could not be compelled to reveal the identity.

Investigators first suspected Morser on Thursday after inspecting his white Buick Riviera, which resembles the car that struck Baltes. Investigators who talked to him said he seemed nervous and evasive.

Morser was ordered to the state attorney’s office on Saturday, where authorites say he admitted he was the driver who struck Baltes. Morser was booked on the third-degree felony and was released without having to post bond.

A subpoena had been issued to compel Morser to talk about the case. Under the terms of the subpoena, Morser was given immunity in exchange for his statement.

The immunity means that prosecutors will not be able to use Morser’s statement against him in court, but it would not bar them from bringing a case based on other evidence. Jack Freese, spokesman for the state attorney’s office, said Monday that the investigation was continuing.

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