Hit-and-run victim's family teams up with NASCAR driver

September 16, 2011 4:00:14 PM PDT
Three years ago, college student Melissa Lech was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver in Joliet. Now her family is teaming up with NASCAR driver Kevin Conway in an effort to track down the person responsible for Melissa's death.

It was a driver who took Lech's life. But now another is giving her family hope.

"I don't think there's anything you can do to necessarily ease the pain, but I think there's something, a lot to be said to letting them know what happened that night. There's so many unanswered questions," said Conway.

When Conway competes at Chicagoland Speedway on his race car will be Lech's photo and police contact information.

The University of Illinois student was just 20 when she was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver in August 2008 while walking on McDonough Street in Joliet.

"The pain and everything is as deep as it was that first day," said Maria Lech, mother.

"He's just giving us hope that we'll have answers, and it just shows he's a wonderful human being and we're going to be rooting for him tomorrow," said Michelle Lech, sister.

Conway, who himself has lost family members in recent years, has on several occasions offered to help local police with cold cases whenever he travels to races. When Joliet police received his call they immediately thought of Lech.

"This case hadn't had any recent media exposure. We knew that having the picture on the car would cause some media exposure, and hopefully someone will come forward with a tip," said Det. John Ross, Joliet Police Department.

"We wanted to give back to the community, tie the community into the event a little bit more, and utilize some of the reach and platform of NASCAR and the real estate on our race car to bring awareness to these cases," said Conway.

Saturday's race is expected to draw tens of thousands of fans and a national audience will be watching on TV.

"Not necessarily the driver is from Joliet, so we'd like to get outside of our media area with our local newspaper and our local radio station," said Ross.

"We just hope that finally somebody will look deep in their heart, and they know something, they will let the police know," said Maria Lech.

A $25,000 reward has been offered for information that helps crack the case.

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