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Suspected driver fled out of fear, records say

Mike Heine/The Week

(Published June 8, 2007, 9:43 a.m.)

The suspected driver of a vehicle that struck and killed a 6-year-old girl in a Lake Geneva apartment complex's parking lot ran from the scene on foot because she was scared, according to charging documents.

Teresa Varela-Merino admitted to police she was driving a Ford Explorer that struck and killed Lexan Duran Ortiz the evening of May 28 at 1363 Elkhorn Road, according to a criminal compliant charging Varela-Merino with hit-and-run causing death.

Varela-Merino, of 1016 Grant St., Lake Geneva, said she tried to stop from hitting the girl, who was riding her bike, but froze and could not hit her brakes, according to the complaint.

When she got out of the vehicle, "everyone was yelling at her," so she ran into her brother's apartment because she was scared, according to the complaint. It's possible she hit the accelerator pedal instead of the brakes, she told police.

Duran Ortiz later died at Aurora Lakeland Medical Center from injuries sustained in the crash, according the Walworth County Coroner's Office.

Varela-Merino has a preliminary hearing on July 11. She faces up to 25 years in prison and fines up to $100,000 if convicted.


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