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Drug test lands driver accused of killing jogger in jail before trial

A Union Township man, who is charged with killing a jogger while driving high on marijuana, was taken back to jail Friday after testing positive for using a synthetic version of marijuana while on pre-trial release.

Porter County Adult Probation Officer James Taylor said Joseph Ruwaldt, 20, was informed in December he should not be using drugs, yet Ruwaldt revealed during their first meeting Jan. 5 he had used a synthetic marijuana product.

Ruwaldt attempted to explain away his actions by arguing the synthetic product is legal, Taylor said.

After a urine screen returned positive for a synthetic chemical outlawed in Indiana, Ruwaldt admitted a second time to using the synthetic marijuana, Taylor said. The results of a urine test taken last week were not yet available Friday, he said.

Porter County Deputy Prosecutor Andrew Bennett asked for the jail time, saying these latest allegations are not a lot different from the circumstances of the fatal crash case.

“The mindset is still the same,” Bennett said. “He’s still engaging in activities that brought him here in the first place.”

Defense attorney John Vouga said Ruwaldt did not realize the synthetic marijuana in question is illegal.

“This boy’s scared,” Vouga said. “Now he knows not to do it.”

Porter Superior Judge Bill Alexa called the synthetic drug products in question a scourge and likened the accusations to someone being prohibited from drinking beer and yet going on to consume hard alcohol.

“It’s the same basic mindset,” he said.

Police allege Ruwaldt was driving his pickup truck July 31 on County Road 100 North just west of County Road 350 West in Union Township when he struck and killed 62-year-old Ronald Garry Bradley, who was jogging.

During interviews with detectives, Ruwaldt said he had been smoking marijuana the day before the crash and had little sleep before getting behind the wheel.

Ruwaldt formally was charged in late November with eight criminal counts. After a bond reduction, he left jail and was placed on pretrial supervision and monitored by the probation department.

He will remain behind bars until his next hearing Feb. 24.

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