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Charges filed against driver in Independence crash that injured teen

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Ethan P. Watts

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Multiple charges have been filed against the driver of a stolen truck that slammed into the vehicle of 17-year-old Shelley Cunningham, critically injuring her.

Ethan P. Watts, 24, is charged with 2nd degree assault, leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident, and driving while revoked/suspended.

Provided photo of Shelley Cunningham

Provided photo of Shelley Cunningham

Cunningham was leaving school on Feb. 26, driving eastbound on 24 Highway around 3 p.m. Within moments, Watts turned onto Parker Avenue in a stolen, white pick-up truck and slammed head-on into the her vehicle, police said.

Emergency crews had to use the Jaws of Life to free Cunningham who was trapped inside her car. Investigators said her silver Alero was destroyed in the crash, and the driver of the truck immediately fled the scene.

Officers tracked Watts down a few blocks away in the 900 block of Strode Street and arrested him.

Cunningham sustained serious injuries, with many calling her survival a miracle. Although her condition was initially rated as critical, she was later upgraded to serious condition. Cunningham continues to improve, as her status was upgraded on Tuesday to fair condition.

IndyCrashWeb1Watts is also charged in a previous carjacking attempt on Feb. 17. Watts is charged with attempted 1st degree robbery and armed criminal action in an incident in which he reportedly pointed a gun at a man out washing his truck and demanded the keys. The victim in this situation was able to run away and Watts was unable to steal the vehicle.

Watts has not been charged in the theft of the truck involved in the crash.

Watts’s license was revoked due to a violation of his probation for failure to appear in Oct. 2014. The suspect has a previous felony conviction for stealing a vehicle in Clay Count in June 2013.