By Katya Yefimova Herald Writer
LAKE STEVENS — Washington State Patrol detectives were counting on a witness to shed some light on what happened to 15-year-old Heather Trickler.
She was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver while walking on the U.S. 2 trestle late on the night of May 30, 2009. A young man was walking with her.
For months, detectives worked to identify him, hoping he would help pin down the car and the driver who hit Heather. Detectives talked with Marquise Breaux-Banks, who is about 16, on May 27, trooper Keith Leary said. He wasn’t able to help them.
“He was basically a witness to nothing except being there with her,” he said.
A homeowner’s surveillance camera captured Breaux-Banks’ image as he tried to get help for Heather after the crash.
Debris at the scene of the crash pointed to a 1995 Chevrolet Astro minivan, painted blue over tan, as the type of vehicle that struck Heather. About 100 vans of that make and model are registered in Snohomish County, detectives said, although they know the hit-and-run van could have come from just about anywhere.
Earlier the day she died, Heather reportedly met Breaux-Banks at the Westlake mall in Seattle. The two didn’t know each other before. They rode a bus together to the Everett Transit Center. They looked for a ride to Lake Stevens, but didn’t find one. They decided to walk to Heather’s house.
The teens reportedly were walking east on U.S. 2, Breaux-Banks on Heather’s right side, when a passing car struck her from behind. The teen told detectives he couldn’t find Heather and tried to get help at nearby homes.
He said he didn’t see the car.
Detectives believe the driver knew the van had hit someone: Witnesses said the van stopped at the shoulder and the driver got out to inspect the damage.
Thousands of tips came in.
Heather’s dad, Rob Trickler, believes crucial time was lost.
“I’m horribly disappointed in how this investigation has gone,” he said recently.
The State Patrol said there is a chance the minivan that struck Heather was destroyed last year as part of the federal “cash for clunkers” program, which offered federal money to trade in an old car for a new one with higher fuel economy. Rob Trickler is frustrated the detectives didn’t get to the vehicles sooner.
He has hired a private investigator and distributed flyers at junk yards, hoping someone will recognize the van.
“She does not deserve this, and neither do her mother and I or any of Heather’s family,” he wrote in a letter to lawmakers asking to help speed up the investigation.
Heather was a troubled teenager, and Rob Trickler, a single dad, said he wished he had more tools to keep her on track. He worked with legislators to sponsor three bills in Heather’s memory. The bills call for tougher punishments for hit-and-run drivers, more tools for courts and parents of struggling kids, and quick help for hit-and-run victims from the Crime Victims Compensation Program. Just two of the bills got a hearing in Olympia this past session, but they didn’t become laws.
“I will keep trying,” Rob Trickler said.
On the lookout for a van
For an example image of what the van police are seeking might look like, click here.
Katya Yefimova: 425-339-3452, firstname.lastname@example.org.