$1,000 reward offered for hit and run conviction
After law enforcement leads ran into dead ends, the family of a Pequot Lakes woman injured in a hit-and-run accident on County Road 1 on April 21 is now looking for tips that could lead to the arrest and prosecution of the guilty parties, as well as offering a $1,000 award.
The incident happened at approximately 9 p.m. when registered nurse Pamela Bridge was returning home from work as a home health aide in Pillager.
"I saw these headlights about halfway from the time I left Pillager," Bridge said. "I checked my mirrors and they kept getting closer and closer and I asked, 'When is he going to pass me?' I thought he was trying to be cute, but then I looked in the mirror and realized he was going to hit me and it went, 'crunch!' I put on my brakes and I don't know what was going to happen."
She was struck from behind by a pickup truck that proceeded to continue to push her vehicle. A police report by responding Cass County Deputy Zachary Johnson said skid marks on scene show the vehicle was pushed 300-400 feet.
After stopping, a male and female stepped out of the vehicle.
"He had a beard and the girl was young," Bridge said. "She was probably a minor."
The police report says Bridge said the female claimed to be driving at that time and apologized for being an inexperienced driver. The report then says the male approached her and apologized for hitting her, slurring his words and saying he didn't stop in spite of seeing her brake lights.
The female addressed Bridge and asked if she was OK. Bridge said she told them that she was not OK and that she was going to call the police. They asked her not to. Bridge said she was unable to use her phone. The suspects said they had a charger cable in their vehicle she could use. The returned to the truck. Both parties then left in the pickup truck.
The vehicle appeared to be of the type used for towing or dock installation. Various pieces were broken off of the truck in the collision. Bridge also saw a tow hook or similar device in the back of the vehicle, identifying it as either a tow truck or dock truck. She also provided police with a possible partial license plate number.
"On scene with the cops we found a turn signal from the vehicle, and we found a tow hook," said Jeremie Bridge, Pamela's son. "There are only three trucks - Dodge, Chevy and Ford - and they all have certain types of tow hooks. We were able to narrow down the vehicles pretty well just by the tow hooks."
"The tow guy came and said it was a '99 or '98 Chevy," Pamela said.
Johnson reported that the parts belonged to a late '90s model Chevrolet or GMC pickup or sport utility vehicle. Serial numbers on the lens of the turn signal were also used for identification purposes.
Two tips helped law enforcement track down two suspects who resembled Pamela's description of the two occupants of the truck.
"A salvage yard had a mechanic who was looking for parts for the vehicle," Jeremie said. "According to rumors the vehicle that hit my mom was sitting in a driveway at someone's house and someone found out about it. That also got out. We only had two leads, and those were the only ones to guide the cops to where they were. Without them we would have had nothing."
The leads helped law enforcement to locate a vehicle owned by a dock service company. The owner of the company gave permission to inspect the vehicle. The vehicle in question matched some numbers from the partial license plate, but not all of them. The truck didn't appear to have damage, beyond a dent in the bumper. There was one headlight that appeared to have possibly been repaired recently.
The owner indicated that one of his employees had the vehicle on the night of the accident. The report says the owner of the vehicle had been told by the employee that he and his sister had struck a deer on County Road 77 around April 24.
"From the night of the accident I was able to find a headlamp assembly, right side and a steel tow hook, right side left at the accident scene by the suspect's vehicle," Johnson said.
Johnson said the owner of the vehicle agreed the parts matched the vehicle. The employee in question also matched the physical description of the suspect with a sister who, likewise, matched the description.
The suspect, upon being approached, said he did not want to talk without an attorney present. Law enforcement also spoke to the sister of the suspect, who cooperated in questioning with her mother present for several questions before asking if she should hire an attorney.
"Ultimately, the case has been declined at this time because we aren't able to identify the driver of the vehicle that hit her beyond a reasonable doubt," said Cass County Attorney Christopher Strandlie. "She was hit and a male and female approached her and both admitted to driving the car that hit her and didn't identify themselves. She wasn't able to identify anybody. Based on that, law enforcement wasn't able to identify them."
Pamela said it was difficult to recognize two people she had only seen for possibly 10 seconds in the dark and following the chaos of the accident. With no other evidence to identify the suspects specifically, county prosecutors decided not to go forward with the case at this time.
"The cop told me they had the vehicle matched perfectly," Jeremie said. "I don't understand it."
Prosecution could be possible if new tips or evidence became available that could help place suspects at the scene of the crime or at least on the same road during the incident.
"Anybody having any information with respect to who hit this woman on that date and time," Strandlie said. "There might be somebody that comes forward. If the victim really wants to pursue it they can do a reward. I don't know above and beyond that."
The accident resulted in several injuries, including bruising to Pamela's legs and arm. She sustained a neck injury and concussion as well. She said she hasn't worked since the accident both because her means of transportation was destroyed and she has lingering injuries.
"I forget things while I'm doing them and I keep putting things in the freezer that I want to microwave," Pamela said. "I'm not that old yet."
The family is offering a reward of $1,000 to anyone who can help them convict the persons responsible.
"We have a senior citizen that can't work anymore," Jeremie said. "She's a registered RN nurse. She is without a vehicle, she's injured, they didn't stop and render aid, which is illegal. A lot happened because of their actions and it needs to be stopped."
"I'd love it if someone knew something, if they would come forward. I had a lucrative job and this put everything on hold," Pamela said. "They're going to kill someone."
Tips can be submitted to the Cass County Sheriff's Department.