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Hit and run suspect arraigned

BEMIDJI -- Christopher Lee Strong was lying in the road when he was struck and killed by Martin Erwin Ubert’s Chevy Monte Carlo, according to investigators.

Ubert, 58, of Bemidji, was arraigned Thursday on one count of criminal vehicular homicide and is being held in the Beltrami County Jail on $100,000 bail. He turned the car around after running over Strong and drove past his body, as indicated by engine fluids found at the scene the next day, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office. But he never called police after allegedly killing the 25-year-old Bemidji man. Ubert would later tell police he thought he struck a bear, according to the complaint.

Following an identification of the Monte Carlo, investigators with the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office received a tip that led them to a home in the 12000 block of Thoren Drive Southeast in Solway. There, they found Ubert, his girlfriend and the Monte Carlo.

An investigator noted “right passenger side undercarriage had a piece of what appeared to be cloth or clothing on it,” according to the complaint.

Ubert told police he and his girlfriend left the Red Lake Casino about 3 a.m. July 31, travelling south on Highway 89 and east on Grange Road Northeast. Initially, Ubert told police he did not turn around and drive past Strong’s body, but recanted when confronted about the engine fluids at the scene that showed the vehicle’s path.

“Ubert eventually admitted that after he ran over what he thought was a bear, he turned around and went back and saw that it was a person. Ubert stated that he did not check Mr. Strong for any signs of life, believing that Mr. Strong was dead,” the complaint read. “Ubert stated that he did not call law enforcement. This was despite the fact that (Ubert’s girlfriend) had a cell phone with her in the car.”

Ubert told police he did not use drugs or alcohol, according to the complaint. But when an investigator asked him if a hair follicle test would reveal drug use, Ubert admitted to using methamphetamines, and had last used the drug five days before Strong’s death.

Ubert was on probation for refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test in 2010 when he struck a Bemidji woman’s horse on February 20, 2013. He tested positive for meth when a Beltrami County sheriff’s deputy caught up with the him the next day, according to a police report. The positive drug test is one of three probation violations that were committed by Ubert between the hit and run killing of the horse, and his alleged involvement in the death of Strong.

Ubert was convicted by Clearwater District Judge Robert Tiffany for refusing to take a breathalyzer test after being arrested following an April 24, 2010, traffic stop. That day, a deputy with the Clearwater County Sheriff’s Office spotted a bottle of alcohol in Ubert’s vehicle, and believed Ubert to be under the influence, according to court documents. Ubert passed a breathalyzer test at the scene, but later refused to submit to a second test after being taken into custody. As a result of the conviction for that crime, he was placed on four years probation, the conditions of which require him to remain law-abiding, to not possess alcohol and to not incur any driver’s license infractions or driving without proof of insurance.

Three violations were reported to Tiffany, Department of Corrections district supervisor Trish Hanson said Wednesday.

Strong’s body was found just before 4:30 a.m. July 31 near the intersection of Grange and Nature roads northeast. A newspaper carrier for The Pioneer made the discovery.

If convicted, Ubert faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a $20,000 fine or both.

Justin Glawe
Reporting on crime, courts and Beltrami county government. Follow me on Twitter @JustinGlawe.
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