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Driver pleads guilty in hit-and-run death of 10-year-old near Lake Mille Lacs

Steven Lee Meier. Courtesy of Aitkin County sheriff

AITKIN, Minn. — A Hastings, Minn., man has pleaded guilty to a felony charge in a case involving a 2016 hit-and-run that caused the death of a 10-year-old girl, according to an Aitkin County Attorney's Office spokeswoman.

Steven L. Meier, 45, changed his plea on a charge of criminal vehicular homicide for leaving the scene of an accident during a hearing Thursday, Feb. 1, in Aitkin County District Court. His sentencing is set for 1:30 p.m. March 23.

A second felony charge of criminal vehicular homicide for failing to notify law enforcement of a collision was dropped, the spokeswoman said.

Meier had originally pleaded not guilty to the two charges in the death of Lake Park, Minn., resident Caylin Donovan, who died after a vehicle struck her near Lake Mille Lacs.

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 the evening of 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 pulled by a vehicle driven by Meier, according to court documents.

Meier was arrested June 20, 2016, in connection with the crash. A woman, who was traveling with Meier but driving a separate vehicle, told investigators she knew there was a body on the road and she felt horrible for not stopping.

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

The witness said he also saw a white pickup pulling a camper driving away quickly and he surmised the two trucks had been traveling together. He walked down a driveway and found Donovan's body on the highway.

He determined that Donovan did not have a pulse. Medics arriving about 20 minutes later pronounced the girl dead.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including K-12 education, Fargo city government, criminal justice, and military affairs. He is currently one of The Forum's business reporters.

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