ISANTI COUNTY, Minn. (KMSP) - The day before an Isanti man is to be sentenced for not stopping at a fatal accident, police and prosecutors are admitting they didn’t look at all the evidence before initially deciding not to press criminal charges.
Investigators eventually charged Adam Maki after the family of the victim found incriminating evidence and brought it to the Fox 9 Investigators.
On Friday, Maki will be sentenced for failing to stop at an accident that killed a teenager on a skateboard. He pleaded guilty to the felony charge.
15-year-old Antonio DeMeules died Sept. 10, 2015 on a rural road after being hit by Maki’s pickup.
Maki came forward the day after the accident and said he thought he hit an animal as he was driving home from a bar.
"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 said to detectives in a recorded interview.
The Isanti County Sheriff and County Attorney agreed that it was a tragic accident. The case was closed without criminal charges.
FAMILY UNCOVERS UNSEEN EVIDENCE
For the family of DeMeules, the grief turned into a mission to uncover the truth about what happened that night. They examined the closed case file and the Fox 9 Investigators detailed what they found in November 2016.
Evidence from Minnesota State Patrol revealed Maki was on his cell phone from 8:06 p.m. to 8:09:30 p.m., roughly the same time Antonio was killed.
Forty-five minutes after leaving the scene, when Maki was home and his damaged vehicle in the garage, he attempted to download an Isanti County MN Scanner app.
It would allow him to listen to police calls as officers searched for the vehicle that struck the boy.
BLU-RAY DISK NEVER EXAMINED
In a letter to the Fox 9 Investigators this week--for the first time--the Isanti Sheriff and County Attorney admitted to making a mistake in the case.
The evidence from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension came on a Blu-ray Disc, and they didn't have a player.
They wrote to the Fox 9 Investigators: “We simply did not have the technology to do this nor did we immediately seek it. This was an error on our part and we acknowledge the mistake.”
CHARGED AFTER STORY
Ten days after the Fox 9 story aired Maki was charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident, not the more serious charge of criminal vehicular homicide.
"It was botched from the very beginning," said Antonio’s aunt, Sheila Potocnik. "From our very first meeting with Isanti they spun it off that it was Antonio's fault, which was a lie."
"They were already spinning out three stories; he was sitting on his skateboard, weaving out of traffic, on his stomach, all sorts of stuff," Antonio’s dad, Jeffrey DeMeules, added.
'THE SYSTEM FAILED THEM'
Michael Brodkorb is a former political operative who helped Antonio's family navigate the bureaucracy.
"The system failed them every step of the way," Brodkorb said. “One of the things this case exposed is the left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing."
The Fox 9 Investigators asked how big a difference the story made in bringing charges.
“A tremendous difference," Brodkorb replied. “The system that is the Fourth Estate came through for the family. The sad thing is you can't do it for everyone."
Maki could get up to three years in prison.
"He took my son's life, now he gets to run free and beg for his freedom," DeMeules’ father said. "We have a life sentence."
"People ask us, 'How did the system fail you?' The question is how did it fail Antonio?" Potocnik said.