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West Lafayette woman charged after allegedly striking UI student with car

BY REBECCA MORIN | APRIL 24, 2013 5:00 AM

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A Purdue University graduate student was formally charged Monday after reportedly hitting two people with her vehicle on April 20, including University of Iowa senior Nicole Ruffolo.

Courtney Nichols, 25, was charged Monday with two counts of OWI, two counts of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury, two counts of operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing serious bodily injury, and three counts of leaving the scene of an accident after committing the offense of operating while intoxicated and causing serious bodily injury.

While Purdue University police Officer Kevin Balzer was performing a routine patrol at approximately 3:06 a.m. on April 20, he witnessed a gold four-door car strike two females and continue without stopping.

Balzer immediately attended to the pedestrian who was badly injured and unconscious. The victim was later identified as Ruffolo. The second pedestrian, Tara Sathaye, suffered minor injuries.

Ruffolo was transported to Indiana University Arnett Hospital.

Ruffolo, 22, is still in critical condition at Arnett Hospital. Though friends and family happily reported that she briefly opened her eye on Monday, Ruffolo is still recovering from severe injuries and is under sedation.

A donation page through fundly.com aims to help with hospital bills and expenses during Ruffolo’s recovery. The website had raised $15,687 toward the new goal of $20,000 as of 11:20 p.m. Tuesday.

Police officials located Nichols a few minutes after the accident. According to Tippecanoe County court documents, when the two police officers made contact with her, she smelled of alcohol and her eyes were glassy in appearance.

Nichols initially refused the offered field sobriety tests; however, later, she agreed and gave a statement to police, according to the affidavit. Her blood alcohol content was .184, according to documents.

Nichols failed two of the three field sobriety tests and told police officials that she thought “a person punched” her vehicle, and she was afraid, so she did not stop. She admitted that she had a glass of wine and two “bomb” drinks while out with friends, but that she only felt “good” and not too impaired to drive home, according to the affidavit.

Nichols’ driver’s side windshield was shattered, and the driver’s side mirror and front panel were damaged as well. Police officials obtained a search warrant and collected blood.

Two pedestrians, Sameer Saiya and Viraj Gokhale, also witnessed the accident. They told police officials that Nichols’ vehicle was “swerving in the roadway,” was “driving too fast,” and was “not in control.”

Ruffolo’s friends will host a fundraiser at Which Wich, 23 S. Dubuque St., from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday. The local business has agreed to donate 10 percent of lunch sales and 15 percent of dinner sales to the fundraiser.

Ruffolo’s family hopes to use the money to not only help with her hospital bills, but also with traveling from Illinois to Indiana. They also hope to use the money for any rehabilitation Ruffolo will need once she is out of the hospital.


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