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UMass Dartmouth student charged in fatal Middleborough hit and run

Michael Dutra’s daughters, Michelle (left) and Shannon, had pleaded for the driver in the crash to come forward.

Gretchen Ertl for The Boston Globe/File

Michael Dutra’s daughters, Michelle (left) and Shannon, had pleaded for the driver in the crash to come forward.

A University of Massachusetts Dartmouth student is facing a criminal charge in connection with a hit-and-run accident that killed a 58-year-old father of two last month in Middleborough, authorities said.

Eric Megna, 18, of Middleborough, is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in Wareham District Court on a charge of leaving the scene of a motor vehicle crash causing death, Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz’s office said in a statement.

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Megna was driving a black Jeep on Wood Street on Oct. 11 when he allegedly struck Michael Dutra of Middleborough, who was riding a bicycle, authorities said.

“Rather than stop and assist the dying man, Megna fled to New Hampshire, where his family owns a vacation home,” and he told authorities there several days later that he struck a deer, Cruz’s office said in a statement.

Megna’s lawyer, David P. Sorrenti, said in an e-mail that he believes his client will be exonerated.

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He said that the trip to the vacation home was planned and not uncommon and that police seized the black Jeep even though eyewitness testimony put a white vehicle at the scene.

“There is no eyewitness observation that puts a black Jeep as being involved in the accident and no witness testimony that places Mr. Megna as the driver of the vehicle involved in the accident,” Sorrenti said.

Cruz’s office said that initial reports pointed to a light-colored vehicle but that paint found on Dutra’s clothing was consistent with the black paint on the Jeep.

Megna sent a photo of a dead deer to his mother, which she showed to investigators, prosecutors said. However, police determined that the picture was taken from the Internet, and that there were no signs of fur or other deer remains on the Jeep, according to Cruz’s office.

Investigators also allegedly recovered parts of Megna’s vehicle from an auto body shop that were consistent with debris found at the scene on Wood Street. The vehicle damage, authorities said, suggested that a person, rather than a deer, had been struck.

Days after Dutra was killed, his family pleaded for the driver to come forward.

“Someone took my family from me,’’ Shannon Dutra, one of his daughters, told the Globe at the time. “I pray they have a conscience, so we can have closure.”

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen @globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.
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