Hastings man faces charges in hit-and-run that killed 10-year-old girl

A Hastings man was charged Wednesday in the hit-and-run crash that killed 10-year-old Caylin Donovan of Lake Park June 10 on Minnesota Highway 18 on the shores of Mille Lacs Lake.

Caylin Donovan, 10, who was killed in a hit-and-run crash near Mille Lacs Lake on Friday, June 10, 2016. Submitted photo.

A Hastings man was charged Wednesday in the hit-and-run crash that killed 10-year-old Caylin Donovan of Lake Park June 10 on Minnesota Highway 18 on the shores of Mille Lacs Lake.

Steven Lee Meier, 44, who was arrested Monday after the Minnesota State Patrol received a tip from the public, was charged with two counts of felony criminal vehicular homicide-one includes leaving the scene of a collision and the other is for failing to notify authorities of the collision.

Each count carries a penalty of 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine.

Meier made his first appearance in front of Judge John Solien in Aitkin County District Court.

Deborah Lynn Chandler, 45, also of Hastings, was also arrested in connection to the case, but had not yet been charged in district court.


Caylin was struck and killed just before 8 p.m. on June 10 while walking on Highway 18. She was staying with family at a home near the lake and was at the end of the home's driveway, possibly trying to get better reception for a cellphone, her mother has said previously.

According to the criminal complaint filed against Meier:

• A neighbor, Joel Jader, reported the hit-and-run and stated he had been in his screened-in porch when he heard the crash. Jader stated he saw a big truck, which had loud howling tires, traveling westbound. Jader heard a loud bang and then heard the vehicle accelerate. When Jader looked out at the highway he saw a white pickup pulling a fifth wheel camper, which also accelerated quickly. Jader thought the two vehicles may have been traveling together and the driver of the second vehicle could have witnessed the crash. Jader walked down to the end of the driveway, at which time he found the 10-year-old lying on the highway, east of the driveway and called 911.

• Aitkin County Deputy Jon Cline arrived on scene he observed Caylin lying with her feet at an angle on the fog line of the westbound traffic lane. Cline did not observe any marks on the pavement indicating a vehicle had braked. State Patrol Sgt. Lance Turcotte arrived at the scene of the crash, where he observed Caylin lying almost halfway into the eastbound traffic lane covered by a blanket. Turcotte did not find any vehicle parts on the roadway or in the ditch, which led him to believe a trailer most likely had struck the girl. Turcotte observed a westbound tire mark which crossed the fog line, went onto the shoulder and then back onto the roadway before going across the fog line by the driveway. State Trooper Dion Pederson, a certified Crash Reconstructionist, arrived at the crash site and mapped the scene and concluded a trailer had struck the girl.

• Caylin's body was transported to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office where an autopsy was performed and found multiple traumatic injuries due to an automobile-pedestrian collision.

• On June 12, William Granholm contacted State Trooper Keith Benz and reported he had observed a maroon Tahoe or Suburban with Wisconsin license plates driven by a female, which was pulling a camper. Shortly after meeting the Tahoe, the reporting party came upon the crash. Granholm stated he remembered the vehicle because he did not see many women driving a vehicle pulling a camper. Benz went to the Junction Gas Station where he viewed their security video footage, which showed a maroon Chevrolet Tahoe pulling a camper traveling westbound on State Highway 18 and then turning southbound onto US Highway 169 near the time of the crash.

• On June 13, Benz located the Chevrolet Tahoe with a Wisconsin license plate and a camper, parked at Myr-Mar Marina in Hazelton Township, Aitkin County. Benz noted there was also a white Jeep Cherokee, boat and trailer at the campsite. Benz parked on the south side of the resort and watched for activity near the vehicle. Approximately five minutes later a male, later identified as Meier, walked around from behind the camper. Benz approached Meier to speak to him, at which time Benz noted he appeared to be anxious and sweating.

• The troopers spoke to Meier and Chandler who stated on June 10, they drove I-35 north to Finlayson, then traveled westbound on Highway 18 to Highway 47, turned westbound on Highway 18 in Malmo, and south onto Highway 169 to Myr Mar Resort. They were packing up to return to the cities. Chandler stated she did not know the way to Myr Mar Marina, so she was following Meier. Chandler denied seeing anyone walking or sitting along Highway 18 and denied knowing anything about the crash.


• The troopers noted at no point did Chandler appear tearful, remorseful or upset about the crash.

• Meier stated he drove the Jeep pulling the boat and indicated he did not see anyone walking or sitting along Highway 18 and denied hitting anything. Turcotte observed the boat trailer had right side damage by the wheel well fender, which Meier indicated was from when a tire blew and wrapped around the wheel well. Turcotte learned in the days following the crash multiple people had reported seeing Caylin sitting on the shoulder of the roadway near the fog line.

• On June 15, Turcotte and a BCA agent spoke to Jader who stated Caylin may have been picking up rocks.The Medical Examiner noted she did have multiple rocks in her pocket.

• On June 16, Turcotte viewed security video from Barnacles Resort, which is located less than 3 miles from the crash site. The video showed Meier's Jeep traveling westbound by Barnacles Resort at 7:49:12 p.m., followed by Chandler's Tahoe at 7:49:17 p.m. Sergeant Turcotte noted the closest vehicle in front of Meier and Chandler traveled by Barnacles Resort approximately 1 minute and 25 seconds ahead of them and 1 minute and 45 seconds passed before the next westbound vehicle traveled by Barnacles Resort behind them. Using time distance calculations with average road speeds, Turcotte determined Meier and Chandler would have been at the crash site at the approximate time of the crash.

• Turcotte received a photograph of what appeared to be a tire tread mark on Caylin's thigh. A photograph taken of the tire tread on the boat trailer closely resembled the mark on her thigh.

• Authorities went to speak with Meier and Chandler at their residence in Hastings. Meier stated when they got to Myr-Mar Resort, Chandler told him she saw a lady on the side of the road. He said he thought it was a deer. Meier denied swerving, hitting anything, running anything over, going off onto the shoulder, or hitting any bumps while traveling on Highway 18.

• Chandler stated she thought she saw a deer and at the last second realized it was a lady on the road by the fog line. She had to move over to the left to avoid striking the body. Chandler stated she was traveling about 15 yards behind Meier and he did not swerve for anything. Chandler admitted she did not call 911 or any authorities to report the body on the highway. When they arrived at Myr-Mar Resort, Chandler asked Meier if he had seen the body on the highway, to which he indicated he had not seen anything. Chandler stated she was unaware Caylin had died until the next day when someone at the bar told her. Chandler stated she felt guilty for lying to Turcotte at the campground and felt horrible for not stopping.

• Search warrants were executed and several blood swabs were taken from the passenger side of the trailer. DNA profiling was done on a swab taken from the damaged rear passenger wheel well of defendant's trailer. The profiling revealed a single source DNA profile, which indicated a female and matched the DNA of Caylin.


Meier was arrested Monday and transported to the Aitkin County Jail.

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