TAYLORSVILLE, Utah -- The father of a 14-year-old girl who was hit and killed inside a crosswalk on Halloween says he is upset to learn that the driver involved in the fatal crash is only facing a citation for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, which he said amounts to a $145 fine.
Victoria Hillman, 14, was with two male friends trick-or-treating when the crash occurred around 7:11 p.m. on Halloween in Taylorsville as the trio was crossing in a marked crosswalk at the intersection of 2700 West and 5930 South. Victoria was pronounced dead at the scene.
“They were halfway through a crosswalk, and one of the boys tried to grab her and pull her back because the van did not stop," said Christopher Hillman, Victoria's father. "It plowed through her. She went on top of the van, under the van. There were fingernails on the asphalt, she was trying to get away from the van.”
Roxeanne Vainuku of the West Valley City Police Department confirmed to FOX 13 News Thursday that detectives and city prosecutors had concluded their investigation into the crash and decided to cite the driver with failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
Hillman claims witnesses reported that driver initially left the scene before returning a short time later.
“From what witnesses say that were right behind her, [the driver] then turned around and said ‘What the hell did I hit?’" Hillman said. "Then she took off. Fifteen minutes later, reportedly, she came back."
West Valley City PD was investigating the case, even though it occurred in Unified Police Department's jurisdiction, because of a potential conflict of interest involving UPD. Hillman said that conflict of interest was due to the fact the driver has a sibling who is a member of UPD.
“And she has a brother that’s on the force, that they’re the ones who showed up to evaluate what had happened," Hillman said. "And a couple of hours later they turned it over to West Valley because there was a conflict of interest. But in that time, I believe something shady went on because she left the scene—I don’t think you should leave the scene—she came back, and the police officer sent her away again within five minutes.”
Vainuku said investigators found that the the driver, 34-year-old Veronica Rodriquez, was 300 feet north of the crosswalk when the teens entered the walk.
Vainuku said Rodriquez had the opportunity to see the teens but for some reason did not. After the driver hit Victoria, Vainuku added Rodriquez drove for about 100 yards before making a U-turn.
Rodriquez wasn't even aware she hit someone, Vainuku said.
Police said there is no evidence of distracted driving or anything to indicate the driver was under the influence.
Hillman said the last few months have been horrible, and he said he has felt like something was off since the beginning.
“I received a phone call that she was dead on the scene," he said. "I went there, they acted really strange about everything. I know they need to keep distance with everybody, but being her father, they just wouldn’t tell me a damn thing. And, it just seemed shady from the beginning and to the end now, where the driver is just being handed a $145 ticket and saying, oh it’s all over after 68 days. It just doesn’t sit well, something’s off. Being that she’s related to the police department that responded and she’s getting off with just a slap on the wrist.”
Shortly after Victoria's death, members of the community called for change at the intersection, which they said was poorly lit and unsafe.
Hillman said the community, particularly children Victoria's age, have been very supportive and have helped him and his wife cope. He said they have done several activities with Victoria's friends to remember and honor her. But, he said people are disheartened by the latest development.
“The community’s pissed,” he said. “There’s a huge outcry. There’s been people that have attended council meetings, just talking about it. We’re trying to get lights up…. And finally this news that I just relayed to everybody today, I mean, everybody’s like, ‘Seriously? What’s going on? A $145 ticket for the life of a 14-year-old girl?' It’s… nothing makes sense right now.”
Hillman added, "everybody that loved her, cared about her, has to pay the price for life, but you pay 145 dollars.”
Victoria's father said he has a chance to appeal the findings of the investigation, which he said is something they plan to do. He said he is hoping media coverage of the case will help generate some interest and lead to change.
“I’m not a judge, I don’t know, but I would hope that in today’s world that we would have laws that would have a better outcome than $145," he said of what he thinks should happen to the driver who killed his daughter. "Whether that’s losing your license for a year, having to speak to the family of the people, of the daughter that you killed: explain what happened. You know, something. Something more than pay your $145 and walk.”