ISANTI COUNTY, Minn. (KMSP) - The driver in a fatal hit-and-run in Isanti County has been charged more than a year later, following a report by the Fox 9 Investigators.
Adam Maki, 31, was charged Wednesday with failing to stop at the scene of an accident, a felony that carries a maximum three-year prison term.
Antonio DeMeules, 15, died after being hit by Maki’s white truck while riding his skateboard on 285th Avenue near Isanti on Sept. 10, 2015. A surveillance camera captured his white truck, at 8:09 p.m. near the scene of the accident, but Maki didn’t turn himself into police until 24 hours later.
DeMeules family told the Fox 9 Investigators they were hoping Maki would be charged with criminal vehicular homicide.
"It was obvious he knew what he did, and in my eyes he was coming from a bar, there's more to this story that we will never know," said DeMeules aunt, Sheila Potocnik.
In February, Isanti County Attorney Jeffrey Edblad declined to file any charges. The case was re-opened when the family discovered phone records that appeared to be overlooked by investigators.
Maki told police the day after the crash that he thought he had hit an animal.
"It was dark, all of a sudden I see this black object about this tall on the ground, bump on my front bumper, and to me it looked like an animal, dog, or I thought turkey," Maki told investigators in a recorded statement.
Maki, who has a previous conviction for drunk driving, drove home after hitting the teen and never stopped to check to see what he had struck.
The Fox 9 Investigators profiled the family of DeMeules earlier this month after they examined the closed case file and found Maki's phone records that came on a computer disc from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).
They discovered Maki was on a phone call from 8:06 to 8:09 p.m. Forty minutes after hitting DeMeules, phone records show he searched for an app on his cell phone, "isanti county mn scanner." It would allow him to listen to police dispatch calls.
"People don't go home and listen to police scanners if they think they hit a dog or turkey," Potocnik said.
Maki was charged with failing to stop at an accident, instead of the more serious charge of vehicular homicide. Court documents indicate that's because police and prosecutors didn't blame Maki, the driver, they blamed DeMeules for wearing dark clothes, and riding his skateboard in the dark.
One witness had seen the teenager sitting on his skateboard, pushing it with his feet. Another witness, and an off-duty firefighter, saw him "flash by" in the opposite lane minutes earlier. But that firefighter told the family, DeMeules wasn't reckless and detectives had twisted his words.
"People looked at Antonio as being the reckless one, when the person who tried to save his life never said such a thing," Potocnik said.
The Isanti County Attorney, Jeff Edblad, told the Fox 9 Investigators in an email, there's nothing in the State Patrol's accident reconstruction report that shows Maki was negligent or caused the accident.
But the trooper that did the reconstruction, admits he never actually inspected the vehicle for mechanical defects, telling the family there was no point. They recorded the phone call with the trooper.
"It was pretty clear from the beginning that based on the evidence, based on everything they have, my conversation with Investigator Bowker, I think we came to realize that he was not going to submit charges," said Trooper Vang Yang.
The Minnesota State Patrol has yet to tell the FOX 9 Investigators why an vehicle inspection was not conducted.
DeMeules' aunt believes police made up their mind early and are still reluctant to change their opinion, despite the evidence the family uncovered.
"We would not be here today if Isanti did their job, we were the ones who found this evidence, not Isanti, so there's no excuse here," Potocnik said
The Minnesota Legislature changed the criminal vehicular homicide law after the Amy Senser case, to eliminate the so-called "ignorance loophole" so a driver can't say, they didn't know what was hit. It requires a driver to stop when it is reasonable to do so after hitting something with a vehicle.
The problem is under criminal vehicular homicide it must be proven the driver caused the accident or was negligent. Prosecutors and police said they don't believe they have the evidence for that in this case.