Charges dropped against man in gay Houston death

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The man authorities nabbed as he fled to Canada for the fatal hit-and-run death of a gay Houston man proclaimed his innocence in a jailhouse interview. Turns out, he was right.

On Thursday, authorities in Houston dropped the charge they filed against Matthew Alan Putterman (photo), 28. He was arrested on Jan. 14 and charged with driving through a red light and running down Michael Alexander Hill, 23, in a Montrose crosswalk on Jan. 8. Putterman was nabbed by Canadian border agents when he was allegedly acting suspiciously as he tried to cross the border. He was jailed in North Dakota after authorities linked his damaged car and text messages concerning a recent accident to Hill's death.

On Wednesday, Putterman proclaimed his innocence in a jailhouse interview with KTRK.

“I wouldn't do that. I didn't do this,” said Matthew Putterman, 28, during jailhouse phone interview with abc13 Wednesday. “They are thinking with their badges and not their brains.”

“I don't live in that area. I don't go in that area. I'm waiting for the police to track my phone so that they can see that I've never been to that area,” said Putterman.

Putterman said he was heading to Canada to his cheaply fix his car, visit a good friend and play in the snow.

The Houston Chronicle detailed what led police to charge Putterman in Hill's death:

Matthew Putterman had driven the 1,473 miles to get his car fixed, he said.

After he was detained for drug smuggling on Jan. 14, Canadian authorities saw eyebrow raising texts that he had been in a wreck, but he didn't think the victim had died, according to court records.

When police in Houston could not find any reports matching the crash he described, a wider dragnet went out and Putterman became a suspect in a fatal hit-and-run case in the Montrose area on Jan. 8.

Witnesses had seen a dark-colored, four-door vehicle mow down 21-year-old Michael Hill about 12:30 a.m.

Looking at Putterman's dark blue Hyundai Sonata with a damaged front-end, the pieces seemed to fit and he was charged with failure to stop and render aid, a felony.

But on Thursday, Houston police watched surveillance video from Putterman's employer, Farmer Brothers Coffee, that showed his car wasn't damaged 12 hours after the late-night-wreck. About Magazine reported about the existence of the video on Wednesday.

The video convinced prosecutors to clear Putterman, according to KTRK.

The Harris County District Attorney's Office says that video helped Putterman clear his name, and the charges have now been dropped. Extradition is no longer needed.

“I was like what?! I'm being released, oh my God that's awesome. Everything felt very good that I'm being set free after being locked up for almost a week for something that I didn't do,” Putterman said in an exclusive interview with Eyewitness News.

On Monday, Hill's family buried him in South Carolina where he grew up. On Wednesday, friends in Houston celebrated his life during a memorial fundraiser at F Bar. 

Hill moved from South Carolina to Houston in early 2015. Friends said he worked as a server at Brennan's and State of Grace to save money for a new car and graduate school. Friends and family contributed nearly $14,000 to a Go Fund Me campaign to help with funeral expenses, exceeding the effort's $12,000 goal.

[image via KTRK | h/t Towleroad]

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