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Man accused in Anchorage hit-and-run told police he stopped to help victim

Ruti Malietufa, 71, appeared in court at the Anchorage Correctional Complex on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018. (Bill Roth / ADN)

The driver accused in the hit-and-run death of a pedestrian near the Anchorage jail Saturday told police he stopped to check on the victim after hitting her — and she insisted she was fine.

Charging documents filed Monday against 71-year-old Ruti Malietufa described a very different scene, with emergency responders arriving to find the woman dead in the road, debris strewn around her.

Police have not released the victim's name.

Malietufa, 71, was arraigned at the Anchorage jail court Monday on a single charge of leaving the scene of an accident without assisting an injured person, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The charging documents laid out in detail what police say happened — and what Malietufa says happened: Police were called to the intersection of Third Avenue and Orca Street at 5:26 p.m. on Saturday.

When officers arrived, they found a woman on the ground in the eastbound lane of traffic, surrounded by debris from a broken headlight. One of her shoes was in the westbound lane, charges said.

It would have been dark, but witnesses had heard the impact of the crash and summoned the Anchorage Safety Patrol, according to the charges.

The crash site is directly adjacent to the area of the Anchorage Correctional Complex where the city's "sleep off" sobering facility is located.

Motorists travel eastbound up a hill on East Third Avenue near Orca Street on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Anchorage Safety Patrol vans drop off people being taken to the sleep-off center because they are too intoxicated to care for themselves.

Police have issued no information about where the victim may have been headed.

Workers with the safety patrol rushed to the scene and tried to administer CPR until medics arrived and declared her dead, according to the charges.

In court, prosecutors said police were still working on notifying the victim's next-of-kin.

Malietufa told police he'd been driving east on Third Avenue when he struck something, stopped and returned to the scene to see what he'd hit, according to the charging document.

"He saw a woman there … she told him she was alright," the charging documents said. "He double checked with her and after she again said she was fine."

He then drove to a Brown Jug liquor store where his wife works.

Meanwhile, detectives were reviewing surveillance video from near the scene that showed a Ford Explorer driving eastbound after the crash.

They tracked the vehicle to the Brown Jug and asked for security footage from the store. Hours later, the wife called police to say she was at home with Malietufa and he was willing to turn himself in.

In court, Malietufa said he had a job and took home about $2,500 in pay, and also drew on Social Security. He said he didn't own a house or other major assets and asked for a public defender. He has no other criminal record in Alaska.

An Anchorage magistrate judge set bail at a $20,000 performance bond and a $20,000 appearance bond.

He also said that if Malietufa bails out, he will be supervised on electronic monitoring house arrest, with passes to work. He will not be allowed to drive.

The area where the woman was hit is treacherous and frequented by people walking, said Lisa Sauder of Bean's Cafe, a nonprofit cafe that serves the homeless.

Bean's Cafe is located about two blocks away from the accident site, and many of its clients regularly walk in the area. Sauder says she worries about their safety, and Bean's holds safety training where clients can get reflective vests.

"It's very dangerous," she said. "Many times the sidewalks aren't cleared. People go way too fast."

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