CAMBRIDGE, Minn. (KMSP) - Adam Maki, the hit-and-run driver recently charged in the September 2015 crash that killed 15-year-old Antonio DeMeules, made his first court appearance Thursday in Isanti County, Minnesota.
The DeMeules family had the Minnesota State Patrol amend its accident reconstruction report to say that Maki was on his phone at the time of the accident, that he had a broken windshield, and that Antonio was wearing reflective clothing and wasn’t riding his skateboard in the middle of the road. The DeMeules family is upset that after the State Patrol amended its report, Maki won’t face the more serious charge of criminal vehicular homicide.
"16 months after Antonio was killed by Mr. Maki, the amended report by the Minnesota State Patrol finally exonerates Antonio. Our family remains committed to ensuring Mr. Maki is held fully responsible for his role in killing our Antonio."
After a Fox 9 investigation in November, Adam Maki was finally charged, one year later, with leaving the scene of the accident. Prosecutors say the charged him with leaving the scene, rather than criminal vehicular homicide, because they can’t prove that Maki caused the accident, rather than Antonio DeMeules’ negligence.
FOX 9 INVESTIGATORS - Phone records contradict official hit-and-run account
"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," DeMeules aunt, Sheila Potocnik, told Fox 9.
DeMeules 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.
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.
The Isanti County Attorney, Jeff Edblad, told the Fox 9 Investigators in an email that there was 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.
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.
Amended Minnesota State Patrol report
Prepared by Trooper Vang Yang
As noted in the original analysis, it was stated that there were no mechanical defects with the involved vehicle that would have contributed to the crash. The statement needs to be clarified. I personally did not complete an inspection of the involved Ford Ranger owned by Adam Maki. The vehicle was seized by the Isanti County Sheriff's Office when Adam Maki turned himself in. Custody of the vehicle was transferred to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) for the purposes of a forensic examination. Upon completion of the forensic examination, the vehicle was returned to the custody of the County Sheriff's Office and subsequently released to Adam Maki.
Since writing the original report, I have had the opportunity to examine several photos taken by the BCA that clearly show obvious damage to the windshield of the Ford Ranger. One crack in particular runs laterally across the windshield and appears to be within the line of sight of the driver.
Without a complete mechanical inspection of the vehicle, mechanical defects cannot be determined as a causal factor. The broken windshield could have interfered with the driver's clear forward field of vision.
During the original investigation, it was my conclusion that when the victim, Antonio Demeules, was struck by the Ford Ranger, that his body was projected forward and tumbled/slid to his position of final rest. Based on my initial analysis I applied the Searle equation to determine a range of speeds. After consulting with Sergeant Lance Langford I have determined that Demeules was, in fact, most likely run over and partially carried by the Ford Ranger after the impact. This collision sequence would render the Searle equation inaccurate. Therefore, the speeds determined in the original report are not accurate for this case.
The description of the clothing worn by Demeules in this case must also be clarified. While the outer garments were dark colored, the outer jacket/coat worn by the victim had reflective piping and orange striping which ran the length of the sleeve (from shoulder to wrist).
Depending on the victim's orientation to a vehicle, the reflective piping and orange stripe may have been visible to approaching traffic.
The statement given by Adam Maki and other evidence discovered by the Isanti County Sheriffs Office indicate that Adam Maki had consumed alcoholic beverages prior to the collision. Due to the time that elapsed from the time of the crash to the time that Adam Maki turned himself in, there is no way to determine if Maki had a measurable amount of alcohol in his system and, if so, what the level would have been.
A forensic analysis of Adam Maki's cell phone was conducted by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. This analysis clearly shows that Adam Maki was both texting and talking on the phone prior to the collision. The time stamp from the video obtained from P&M Truss and the time stamp show on Adam Maki's cell phone indicated that Adam Maki was likely distracted by the use of his cell phone at the time of the collision.
The white pickup with the tapper is seen in the P&M Truss video with a time stamp of 20:09:21 (8:09:21 pm). Maki had sent texts on his phone with time stamps of 8:03:11, 8:03:53, 8:05:40. Maki had an outgoing phone call with a time stamp of 8:06:29 which lasted three minutes and eight seconds. The three minutes and eight seconds would put the phone call with an end time of 8:09:37.
Based on this review and on the new information I have examined, I am amending my conclusions regarding the causal factors involved in this crash.
Mechanical defect cannot be determined as a causal factor as a complete vehicle inspection was not conducted. The broken windshield may have prevented a clear forward field of vision for Adam Maki as he proceeded westbound on 285th Avenue NE and constitutes a violation of Minnesota State Statute 169.71 Subdivision 1(a)(1).
The Searle equation was improperly applied in this case and the resulting speed determinations must be discounted
A forensic phone analysis indicates that Adam Maki was likely on his phone at the time of the collision. With this information it is likely that Adam Maki was inattentive/distracted when the collision occurred.
The clothing worn by the victim was dark colored, but did have some reflective striping that could have been visible. A witness did state that she saw Demeules wearing striped dark clothing.