SALEM — Was it intentional or an accident?
That's the key question Utah County sheriff's investigators want answered regarding the weekend death of a 17-year-old boy whose body was found in the middle of a road following a party.
An autopsy concluded that Nathan Tyler Haun, 17, of Spanish Fork, died as a result of being hit by a car. His body was found by a passer-by early Saturday at 2000 W. Arrowhead Trail, an area east of I-15 between Salem and Payson.
But was he hit on the dark road by accident because the driver didn't see him, or did someone who was still angry at him from an earlier argument hit Haun on purpose?
Detectives said Monday that either scenario is plausible.
"We don't know anything definitively to say, 'Yes, this person was killed intentionally,' or 'It was clearly an accident,'" said Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon. "We don't have any information telling us strongly it's one or the other right now."
The only thing investigators can say with some certainty is that someone knows what happened.
"We have a hard time believing that someone could have hit him and not know it. We also find it hard to believe there's not some damage (to their vehicle)," Cannon said.
Haun's father, Preston Haun, said the impact of the collision crushed his son's femur.
In retracing his steps, detectives believe Haun went to one or two parties late Friday and early Saturday. At one of those parties, there was an argument over a girl.
"We do know there was some disagreement or argument between Nathan and at least one other individual over a common romantic interest. We don't know if the discord there was enough to cause one person to want to do this to another," Cannon said.
Specific details about the argument, such as how heated it became, what time it happened and whether Haun decided to walk home afterward, were not being released Monday. But Cannon said detectives were looking at whether ill feelings may have resulted in an intentional hit-and-run.
Yet investigators also noted that Haun was wearing dark clothing on a poorly lit street when he was hit. There were no skid marks indicating that someone attempted to brake, Cannon said.
"We can't read too much into that because there was no street lighting in this area. It was an almost moon-less night — and it's a dark road. There's no shoulder on it, it's narrow."
The collision could have been an unfortunate accident by a driver who simply didn't see the teen, Cannon said. Pieces of car trim were found in the road near Haun's body. But Cannon said it was unclear whether that was from the vehicle that hit the boy or old debris. There was still no information Monday about a possible driver or a type of vehicle.
About a dozen people, all between 16 to 19 years old, are believed to have attended one or both of the parties and may have had interaction with Haun. But complicating the investigation more for detectives is the fact that some party-goers and their parents aren't talking to law enforcement.
"We have had some, either on their own or under their parent's direction, who are refusing to talk to us," Cannon said. "So that's making it a little bit difficult to try and paint a clear picture as to eliminate people who might know anything, or say this person can at least help us figure out a timeline when Nathan was last seen."
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