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Plea hearing set for man accused in fatal hit-and-run of Lake Park girl

Steven L. Meier1 / 2
Caylin Donovan, 10, who was killed in a hit-and-run crash near Lake Mille Lacs on Friday, June 10, 2016. Submitted photo.2 / 2

AITKIN, Minn. — A man charged with causing the death of a 10-year-old Lake Park girl in a hit-and-run in June 2016 is scheduled to enter a guilty plea in Aitkin County District Court on Wednesday, Sept. 13.

Steven L. Meier, of Hastings, Minn., is charged with two counts of felony criminal vehicular homicide in the death of Caylin Donovan, who died after a vehicle struck her near Lake Mille Lacs in Aitkin County.

Witnesses told authorities that Donovan, who was staying with family at a home near the lake, may have been collecting rocks when she was struck and killed June 10, 2016, at the end of the home's driveway along Minnesota Highway 18.

DNA matching Donavan's was later found on a boat trailer that was pulled by a vehicle driven by Meier, according to court records.

The charges against Meier allege he caused the girl's death while operating a motor vehicle and that he left the scene without alerting authorities.

According to court documents:

A witness called authorities about 8:10 p.m. June 10, 2016, to report that he was in his screened-in porch when he heard a loud bang and then heard a large truck accelerating away.

He said when he looked toward the highway, he saw another truck, a white pickup pulling a camper, that was also driving away quickly and he surmised the two trucks had been traveling together.

The witness said he walked down a driveway and found Donovan's body lying on the highway.

On June 12, 2016, a Minnesota State Patrol trooper obtained video footage from a gas station that showed a maroon Chevrolet Tahoe pulling a camper westbound on Minnesota Highway 18 and turning south onto U.S. Highway 169 near the time of the crash.

The next day, the trooper found a maroon Tahoe and camper at a campsite in Aitkin County. A white Jeep Cherokee and a boat and a trailer were also at the campsite.

The trooper approached the campsite and spoke with Meier and a woman. The woman said she and Meier had traveled on Minnesota Highway 18 to reach the campground, but denied seeing anyone on the highway.

Meier, who said he had been driving the Jeep pulling the boat, said he had not seen anything either, and he denied hitting anything.

A trooper noted that the boat trailer had damage on the right side near the wheel well fender.

Following the crash, witnesses told authorities they had seen the girl sitting on the shoulder of the highway near the fog line.

One witness told authorities the girl may have been picking up rocks. The medical examiner reported to authorities that Donovan was found to have several rocks in her pocket.

Authorities obtained video at Barnacles Resort, about 3 miles from the site of the crash, that showed Meier's Jeep and the Tahoe driven by his female companion went by the resort at about 7:49 p.m. the night of the crash.

Court records indicate that a tire tread mark found on the girl's thigh closely resembled the tread on the tires of Meier's boat trailer.