Driver allegedly struck, killed woman on Northland Kansas City roadside ‘on purpose’

A 28-year-old man is accused of intentionally killing a stranger with his pickup truck as she was stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire in Kansas City’s Northland.

Clay County prosecutors on Wednesday charged Zackary W. Young, of Independence, with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the death of 20-year-old Savanna Churchill. Charging documents filed for Young focus heavily on an alleged confession that he crashed into Churchill “on purpose.”

Police officers were dispatched to the site of the crash around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. They were called by a witness who had gone to help Churchill with car trouble.

The witness told police Churchill’s car was unoccupied. From there, the witness said he saw Churchill in a corn field and a man walking away from a Dodge Ram pickup that had crashed into a ditch.

Churchill was pronounced dead at the scene.

The bloodied pickup truck had damage to its front bumper, windshield and hood. The vehicle had license plates registered to Young, according to court documents.

A responding police officer stopped Young as he walked on the side of the road and asked whether he knew about the crash. He was taken into police custody when he told the officer he was involved, according to court documents.

A probable cause affidavit filed for Young outlines a series of rambling statements to police where he discusses taking a cocktail of prescription drugs, being in debt and running from “the government.”

During the interview, authorities say Young discussed the “accident” and hitting Churchill after he “veered” toward her. He said she was by the rear taillight of a car, on her cellphone, in the ditch. After the crash, he said he got out of his truck, saw her “in the bushes,” and started to walk away.

“When asked if he hit the person on purpose, Young stated, ‘I think I did, (expletive), I did it all on purpose,” a Liberty detective wrote in charging documents for Young.

“I want to apologize for it all, but it was on, it was on, purpose. Is she okay?” the detective recounted Young as saying in the court document.

Online records did not list a defense attorney Young or a scheduled time for his first court appearance.

Under Missouri law, those convicted of first-degree murder, a Class A felony, face the death penalty or life in prison.

As of Wednesday, Young was being held in the Clay County jail on a $1 million bond.

In a statement Wednesday, Liberty Police Chief Jim Martin called Churchill’s death “an absolute tragedy.” He said the department “is committed to ensure justice is served for Ms. Churchill and her family.”