Man charged in fatal Altoona hit-and-run

35-year-old Brendan Barkovich is charged with hit-and-run resulting in death and is being held on a $100,000 cash bond.
Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 1:08 PM CDT
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ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU) - A 35-year-old Eau Claire man is charged in a fatal hit-and-run that happened early Sunday morning in Altoona.

29-year-old Jonathan Peacock of Altoona was killed after he was hit by a vehicle while he was walking alongside westbound Highway 12 between McCann Drive and 10th Street West in Altoona.

Brendan Barkovich is charged with hit-and-run resulting resulting in death and possession of cocaine as a party to a crime. He is accused of hitting Peacock with his 2017 Ford Explorer in the early morning hours of July 3.

According to documents filed in Eau Claire County Circuit Court with the charges, Altoona Police were notified of a dead man on the side of Highway 12 at 5:16 a.m. July 3. First responders told police that the man was found dead by the side of the road. Two people who found the body pointed out debris from a vehicle near the body, and personal items were found scattered in the ditch near 10th Street. Highway 12 was closed at 5:30 a.m. so police could continue their investigation.

Pieces of the vehicle debris included part numbers for parts that are found on 2016-2019 Ford Explorers, the type of vehicle which was included in an alert that police sent out seeking information about the hit-and-run. Police also reviewed Wisconsin Department of Transportation cameras, as well as surveillance video from businesses along Highway 12, and saw the type of vehicle they suspected was involved in the hit-and-run traveling through the intersection of Highway 53 and Highway 12 west of where the crash happened at 3:30 a.m., according to court documents.

The family of the victim, Jonathan Peacock, confirmed to investigators that he left his home in Altoona around 2:30 a.m. on foot. Family members told police that he had been working on a lawnmower around 2 a.m. and got into an argument when he was confronted about the noise before leaving the home. The description of the clothing he was wearing when he left, as well as some of the personal items he would be carrying, matched what police found at the scene of the crash, according to court documents.

Barkovich and one of his family members went to the Altoona Police Department at 11:45 a.m. to report a crash from the previous night. Barkovich told police that while he was driving the night before, he heard a firework go off to the left, so he turned to look. Then, he heard a “big thump.” He drove to his home in Eau Claire, and when he looked at his vehicle, a 2017 Ford Explorer, he noticed it was “beat up.” Barkovich told police that he wanted to report the crash so he could then call it in to his insurance, according to court documents. In an interview with police, Barkovich said he didn’t stop to see what he had hit because he thought he had hit a deer and wanted to get home after attending fireworks in Altoona. He also told police that he had been drinking at Cinder City Days earlier in the day, but wasn’t drunk, according to the criminal complaint.

Police went to Barkovich’s home in Eau Claire and saw a 2017 Ford Explorer with significant damage, including to the hood, windshield, headlight and fender. Police found blood on the windshield and collected samples as evidence. Barkovich was then taken into custody and cited for failing to report an accident. During their search of Barkovich’s possessions, a baggie of white powder was found in the case of a cell phone, which field-tested positive for cocaine. A can of White Claw was found crushed in the back seat of the Explorer, still leaking liquid as police searched the vehicle, according to court documents.

An autopsy done at the Ramsey County (Minn.) Medical Examiner’s Office found that the injuries the victim suffered were consistent with being struck by a vehicle. A doctor conducting the autopsy said that based on the injuries, the vehicle that struck Peacock would have heavy damage, including the windshield, and would have been traveling faster than the posted 45 mph speed limit, according to the criminal complaint.

Altoona Police Department said in a release Tuesday that Jonathan Peacock was killed walking alongside westbound Highway 12 after being hit by a 2017 Ford Explorer driven by Barkovich in the early morning of Sunday, July 3.

Barkovich is being held at the Eau Claire County Jail on a $100,000 cash bond with conditions that he have no contact with the victim’s family, no contact with anyone involved in illegal drug activities and maintain absolute sobriety. He is scheduled to appear in court on August 9 for a preliminary hearing, according to online court records. If convicted of both charges, Barkovich would face maximum penalties of 25 years in prison, one year in county jail, and fines up to $105,000. The citation for failing to report an accident carries a fine of $389.50. If convicted on the first count of hit-and-run resulting in death, he would lose driving privileges for five years. A conviction of the second count would suspend his driving privileges for six months to five years.

The Wisconsin State Patrol and Altoona Police Department conducted the investigation of the crash scene. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation said that Highway 12 westbound was closed for over four hours, from 5:30 until 9:41 a.m., on Sunday while the crash was investigated.

Anyone with information about the crash is asked to call the Altoona Police Department at 715-839-4972, Crime Stoppers at 715-874-8477 (TIPS) or to submit a tip anonymously via the P3 Tips mobile app or at eauclairecountycrimestoppers.org.

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