Driver arrested in death of 9-year-old girl

February 10, 2009 8:13:28 PM PST
A northwest Indiana man charged in the death of a nine-year-old girl may have been trying to scare her while driving at a high rate of speed.Police say the man rushed to an abandoned home he owns after getting a call that some children may have been damaging his property. That home is in Portage, Indiana.

It's a reckless homicide charge for a man who has a child the same age as 9-year-old Elizabeth Miller. She and some friends were playing near an abandoned home when police say the owner tried to scare them off his property.

It was dusk, still enough light to see. But what police say the man could not envision was that he would be unable to stop.

"He hit the deck so hard it knocked part of the deck and her into the road. She was on the deck. She wasn't even in the road," said Lisa Miller, Elizabeth's mother.

Nine-year-old Elizabeth Miller was with several friends outside an abandoned home. The owner, 30-year-old Richard McCall, lives a few miles away. When he heard about people on his property, police say McCall rushed over.

Investigators say McCall sped-up -- perhaps to 45 or 50 miles an hour, intent on scaring the kids.

"He hit the breaks and his car slid. He didn't mean to kill somebody or hurt somebody. He's a lovely person," said A.J. Salim, witness.

"It doesn't matter. You don't do that. You get out, tell them 'hey get off my property!' You don't go running at a little kid with a vehicle. You don't do that," said Anthony Padlo, victims' uncle.

McCall's home's been vacant ever since a tree fell on it more than a year ago. Neighbors say kids routinely play on the property, a source of frustration to the homeowner.

"It was 100 percent an accident. Rick is a great guy, a great father, a great friend," said Antonio Gutierrez, driver's friend.

On Monday night, Elizabeth's family gathered at the crash scene. It's the same place the school bus comes each day to pick up the neighborhood kids. A space, until now, they viewed as a play place.

"My son was 30 feet away from where she was. It could have been all three of the kids," said Tracy Purcell, Portage resident.

The driver remains in police custody on Tuesday night.

Prosecutors are waiting for drug and alcohol tests to come back before deciding whether to increase charges.

The driver's family declined to comment on Tuesday night. ABC7 has learned that he has three kids of his own, including a child the same age as Elizabeth Miller.