STEUBEN COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) – A woman charged in the killing of a 13-year-old who died in a hit-and-run crash in Steuben County this past weekend tried to clean up blood and knock out dents left on her Jeep Liberty in order to conceal her involvement, according to newly released court documents.
Hope Richmond, 45, of Montpelier, Ohio, is accused of hitting two boys just before 9 p.m. Saturday while driving a silver Jeep Liberty eastbound in the 1500 block of County Road 275 North in rural Pleasant Township.
She’s then accused of leaving the scene, Steuben Superior Court documents said.
One of the boys, 12-year-old Ryly Cummings, was taken to a hospital with a head laceration that required staples to close and has since been released.
The other boy, 13-year-old Wayden Bennett, of rural Angola, was taken to a Fort Wayne hospital where he died days later.
Cummings would later tell detectives he and Bennett were walking against traffic after playing baseball at a the nearby Lake James Christian Camp. As they got close to the entrance to the parking lot of Mulligan’s Restaurant & Pub, they crossed the road and were walking side by side.
Cummings told police he was in the grass while Bennett was walking on the white line. The next thing he knew, Cummings said in court documents, he was in a ditch by the road bleeding with people standing around him.
At the scene, investigators found a piece of paint lying in the middle of the roadway as well as debris that looked to be parts of a vehicle, according to court documents.
Later, a man at an auto repair shop told detectives the parts appeared to go to a side mirror assembly and determined the paint chip went with a scheme used for the silver Jeep Liberty model from 2008 to 2012, court documents said.
Tips began flooding the Steuben County Sheriff’s department shortly after the crash, according to court documents. Detectives and officers checked out at least one other damaged vehicle someone saw in a driveway, but an anonymous “good citizen” pointed them to a home in Fremont that had a silver Jeep Liberty parked outside.
The Jeep at the home had damage to the front, the hood and the passenger side mirror, court documents said.
Richmond came out of the home to speak with a detective who arrived there Monday. Initially, she said she had struck a deer about a week prior, according to court documents. While looking at damage to the vehicle, though, Richmond’s demeanor changed.
“Hope had an obvious change in breathing and posture,” a detective wrote in court documents. “Hope dropped her head and now was looking at the ground. Detective Trippe asked again about the damage. Hope states, ‘It was dark, and I did not see them.'”
During an interview at the Steuben County Sheriff’s Department, Richmond told detectives she was the person who hit the two boys, court documents said.
She had just picked up food at a Mexican restaurant and then hit what she thought was a trash can. That was why she did not stop, Richmond said in court documents. Richmond later said in court documents she heard the news about the boys, that it was in the area of where she was and knew that she hit them.
She also told detectives in those court documents she attempted to conceal that she was the one who hit the boys by trying to remove dents from the Jeep as well as wiping blood from the vehicle.
Richmond also told detectives she tried to remove the broken side mirror.
Detectives found towels Richmond said she used to clean up the Jeep at the home where the vehicle had been parked, court documents said.
Richmond told detectives she was not operating while intoxicated or on any drugs at the time of the crash, court documents said. Detectives have found no evidence she was on her phone or driving distracted, either.
When asked why she did not report the crash after she realized she had hit the boys, Richmond said in court documents that she “feared what would happen to her.”
Richmond is facing a Level 4 felony count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death or catastrophic injury, a Level 6 felony count of leaving the scene of an accident with moderate or serious bodily injury, and a Level 6 felony count of obstruction of justice.
She was initially booked into Steuben County Jail without bond and has a pretrial conference hearing scheduled for Nov. 28.