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June 4, 2015

Ozark teen’s hit-and-run bicycle death remains unsolved; open seat left for him during graduation

Giacomo Bologna, News-Leader 10:47 a.m. CDT June 4, 2015

Ozark High School’s graduation earlier this month, one seat was left empty. It’s where Timothy Sparks would have sat, but Sparks was killed by a car that struck him while riding his bicycle on July 3.

Sparks was on State Route NN in Ozark. He was 18 at the time of the hit-and-run. Ten months have since passed.

Days after Sparks’s death, a tip about a nearby party led police to seize a vehicle, and shortly thereafter a man called police to confess to the hit-and-run, court records say.

However, no charges have been filed, and both Ozark Police and Christian County Prosecutor Amy Fite said the case is still under investigation.

“To protect the integrity of this investigation we are not releasing details at this time,” a statement from the Ozark Police Department read.

The statement stressed that cases like this one are complex.

“It is not like the crime drama shows on television. Cases are not investigated and solved in 45 minutes. Cases are not tried in court in one episode,” Ozark Police said. “This process involves hundreds if not thousands of man-hours. To work a case any other way would be careless and unprofessional.”

Timothy’s father, James, said he hasn’t heard anything regarding the case, but he and his family are placing their trust in the process.

“We’re just trying to be diligent with our own lives,” James Sparks said.

According to a News-Leader report in October, police said Timothy Sparks was riding his bicycle on a stretch of State Route NN that did not have a shoulder around 11:30 p.m. when he was struck.

Police said Timothy Sparks was wearing dark clothing and no helmet and that they don’t believe his bicycle had a front headlight, but a rear bicycle taillight was found at the site.

Police documents said officers believed the car that struck Timothy Sparks was a Jeep Wrangler built between 1997 and 2004.

A few days after Timothy Sparks was found dead by the road, police received an anonymous call, saying there had been several people drinking at an Ozark house the night Sparks was struck.

Police then went to that Ozark house — the home of Josh and Kaysha Kent — and seized a Jeep believed to be the one that struck Sparks.

Police documents also say the confession came from Josh Kent, who called police to admit the crime less than a week after the hit-and-run. Police have not been willing to discuss why that alleged confession has not helped move the investigation to the point of charges being filed.

News-Leader attempts to contact Josh Kent failed.

James Sparks said he was grateful the high school left a chair open for his son.

“Tim was a good student …. His family and all were good people,” Ozark Principal Sam Taylor said. “It was a crushing blow to Ozark and the school.”

Timothy was also in the Ozark’s International Baccalaureate program, and, in addition to the empty seat at Ozark’s graduation, the IB program remembered him at its end-of-the-year banquet, James Sparks said.

James said his son was passionate about the IB program. Pictures of Timothy were displayed at the banquet — pictures that “brought us to tears,” James said.

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