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Rohnert Park driver suspected in hit-and-run crash in court Wednesday

A Rohnert Park man suspected of slamming into a bicyclist and driving away without stopping to help or reporting the crash is scheduled to make his first court appearance Wednesday.

Robert Ernest "Bud" Cowart, 68, is expected to face a single charge of felony hit and run when he is arraigned at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, authorities said.

If convicted, he faces up to four years in prison, District Attorney Jill Ravitch said.

Cowart is suspected of veering onto the shoulder of Petaluma Hill Road on Friday morning and hitting retired Sonoma State University Professor Steve Norwick, an avid bicyclist who was pedaling to coffee with friends in Penngrove when he was struck.

Norwick, also 68, has been in a coma since Friday morning's crash. His condition at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital was unchanged Monday, family members said.

Witnesses said Cowart never even slowed after launching Norwick from his mountain bike and into a ditch near East Railroad Avenue.

Authorities said he just kept on driving, later stopping at a Penngrove market for milk, before heading to his Fair Avenue well drilling company in Petaluma, where he reportedly was to meet possible buyers for some of his equipment.

Cowart was arrested Friday evening after a CHP officer who lives in his neighborhood saw him back into his driveway in a pickup matching the description of the truck that struck Norwick.

The damage to the front-end of the truck was clearly visible, as was the fact that the right-mirror had been sheared off, said the neighbor, CHP Officer Robert Powers.

It remains a mystery why Cowart didn't think to hide the damage nor stop in the wake of the crash Friday. He told authorities he was late to work — though he worked for himself — and said he thought Norwick was OK, though the professor's biking companion described seeing his friend "blast" by him once he'd been hit.


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