(KMSP) - Criminal vehicular homicide charges were filed Wednesday in the hit-and-run crash that killed 10-year-old Caylin Donovan in Aitkin County on June 10. Steven Lee Meier, 44, and Deborah Lynn Chandler, 45, were arrested Monday after the Minnesota State Patrol received a tip that the pair may have been involved in the crash.
Caylin Donovan was collecting rocks and walking along Highway 18 near Lake Mille Lacs just before 8 p.m. on June 10 when she was hit. Several rocks were found in her pockets by the medical examiner. According to the criminal complaint, tire tracks found on the girl's body match the tires of the Hastings, Minn. suspects' boat trailer.
Witness hears crash, finds Caylin
According to the complaint, a Wealthwood Township man was sitting on his screened-in porch when he heard the crash. He told a deputy he saw a big truck with "loud howling tires" traveling west on Highway 18, then heard a "loud bang" before the vehicle accelerated. When he looked out at the highway, he saw a white pickup pulling a 5th wheel camper, which also accelerated quickly. He believed the two vehicles may have been traveling together, which led to a request from the Minnesota State Patrol for the driver of that camper to come forward.
A tip caller contacted the Minnesota State Patrol on June 12 to report seeing a maroon Tahoe or Suburban with Wisconsin license plates that was pulling a camper. He said he remembered the truck because he didn't see many women driving a vehicle or pulling a camper. A trooper reviewed surveillance video from the Junction Gas Station which showed a maroon Chevy Tahoe pulling a camper on westbound Highway 18, then turning onto Highway 169 near the time of the crash.
SUV found at marina campsite
On the morning on June 13, troopers found the Chevy Tahoe at the Myr-Mar Marina in Hazelton Township. The trooper also noted a white Jeep Cherokee with a boat and trailer at the same campsite as the Tahoe.
Interviews with suspects
When the trooper spoke with Deborah Chandler, she said she was following Steven Meier to Myr-Mar Marina, but denied seeing anyone on Highway 18 and denied knowing anything about the crash. Meier said he was driving the Jeep with the boat trailer, which had right side damage by the wheel well fender. Meier said the damage was from a tire blowout.
In an interview at her home in Hastings, Chandler said she thought she saw a deer on the side of the road but at the last second realized it was a person and had to swerve to avoid hitting her. She said she was driving about 15 yards behind Meier and noted that he did not swerve for anything. Chandler admitted that she failed to call 911 and said she was unaware Caylin Donovan died until the next day when someone at the bar told her about it. Chandler said she felt guilty for lying at the campground and felt horrible for not stopping.
2nd June 10 fatal hit-and-run still unsolved
The Minnesota State Patrol is also asking for the public’s help in finding a vehicle involved in a second, separate hit-and-run that killed 85-year-old Margaret Johnson in Aitkin County on June 10.
Johnson was found on the shoulder of Highway 47 near her mailbox, approximately 3.5 miles east of Aitkin, Minn. The State Patrol and Aitkin County Sheriff are asking anyone who saw Johnson near her mailbox that day between noon and 1 p.m. to call 218-316-3026 or 218-927-7435 with any information.