MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The suspected driver in a fatal hit-and-run crash in Inver Grove Heights told investigators she thought she hit a deer.

Haimanot Gebremedhin, 55, was found dead after a car hit her on the north side of 80th Street Saturday night. A memorial now sits on the site, just east of Blaine Avenue.

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The driver of the car, 30-year-old Breyona Cotton, turned herself in 19 hours after the crash.

Haimanot Gebremedhin (credit: CBS)

“It’s kind of inexplicable that somebody could just leave a person on the side of the road and not think about it, and the impact that it has on a family and the gaping hole that will forever be there,” said Krystle Aschenaki, the victim’s daughter in law.

According to a search warrant, Cotton saw the social media post about the fatal crash and realized she was in the same area at that time. She told investigators she thought she hit a deer.

Defense attorney Joe Tamborino is not connected to this case, but says the defense is something we have heard before in Minnesota.

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“That’s the Amy Senser defense,” Tamborino said.

Breyona Cotton (credit: Dakota Co. Attorney’s Office)

Cotton told investigators she pulled over, she did not get out of her car, but looked around expecting to see a deer running away. When she saw nothing, she continued driving home.

“The law requires that if you get into a collision, whether it’s in another vehicle or a person or whatever it is, you have a duty to inspect and make reasonable efforts to inspect what you hit,” Tamborino said.

Cotton drove the car involved in the fatal hit and run to the police station. It had damage to the front end, hood and windshield. Court documents say investigators swabbed the vehicle for DNA evidence and requested forensic testing of her cellphone.

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This case is currently under investigation. Once investigators are done, all of that information will be forwarded to the Dakota County attorney for possible charges.

Reg Chapman