MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Investigators say DNA evidence directly links a Hastings man to the hit-and-run death of a 10-year-old girl in Aitkin County. He and his girlfriend, Deborah Chandler, are both under arrest.

Steven Meier is facing vehicular homicide charges. Investigators have not charged his girlfriend, who was following behind in a separate vehicle but say she failed to call 911 after seeing the body by the road.

Caylin Donovan was walking on a road near Lake Mille Lacs on June 10 when she was struck.

Officers say Meier says he does not remember hitting or bumping into anything that Friday evening. He was driving an SUV pulling a boat on a trailer. Chandler was following closely behind, pulling a camper, on the way to a lakeside resort.

Investigators say after hitting the little girl, the two drove on and vacationed by the lake. After reviewing gas station surveillance video and doing time calculations, officers time the couple’s vehicles to the hit-and-run scene. A trooper visited the couple a few days later at a nearby resort. They say the couple was packing up, planning to head back to the Cities. The trooper said Meier appeared to be “anxious and sweating.”

When asked, “Ms. Chandler denied knowing anything about the crash.”

Days later, officers visited the couple at their Hastings home and took statements. Chandler, they said, stated, “she thought she saw a deer and then at the last second realized it was a lady on the side of the road.”

Meier, officers say, stated, “Denied swerving, hitting anything, running anything over, going off onto the shoulder or hitting any bumps.”

Officers say it appeared someone had attempted to wash part of the boat trailer. They were able to collect evidence from under the wheel-well. They say it matched Caylin Donovan’s DNA.

After being read her Miranda warning, officers say Chandler said, “She had to swerve to avoid hitting the lady and admitted she did not call 911 or stop.”

The criminal complaint also says Chandler realized that body she saw by the road was Caylin, she felt horrible for not stopping. It’s not clear if she will be charged in the incident.

Ginnie Donavan is Caylin’s mother. She tells WCCO Caylin was full of life and determination. For fun, she loved to collect rocks. That’s what investigators think she was doing when a vehicle struck her on June 10. It’s no surprise to her mom.

Her mom says at one point, “I found rocks in her pants and when I was looking for a bag to put her clothes in, I dumped out like eight more rocks.”

From her home near Fargo, Ginnie explains how she got the news that troopers arrested two people linked to her daughter’s death.

“We were at the remembrance and they told us all, I felt like, like I could breathe again,” Ginnie said.

She says she doesn’t know the couple’s circumstances nor the details, but says, “Of course I’m angry, they stole something from me and I can’t just replace it.”

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

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