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I killed Casey Mitchell.

She was run down by a speeding car on Birchwood Drive on May 3, 2001. There were no witnesses. The police ruled it a hit and run.

It was me. I was there. I was hurrying home from work to catch a TV show. I was adjusting my mirror as I drove and barely noticed that she was there until I heard the "thud" on the front of my car. It could have happened to anyone.

By the time I realized what had happened, I was thirty yards down the road. I was faced with a choice.

I could turn around and go back to see what I had hit. Or - I could keep driving. I was about three-quarters of a mile from my house, and I was secretly hoping that I'd run over a raccoon or maybe even a dog. A dog has a lot of emotional significance to some people, but it's not their first-born son. Or daughter.

I scanned my periphery as quickly as I could. I was still going forty, forty-five miles an hour down what was arguably a low-traffic suburban road. I couldn't see any cars within visible range. I couldn't see any people, either, but that didn't mean that there weren't any.

I didn't know anything about crime. I still don't. Did driving away add leaving the scene of the crime to vehicular homicide? Vehicular manslaughter. I repeated it in my head. Not homicide. Manslaughter. Or petslaughter. Look on the bright side.

It's easy to make your decisions by inaction. You can kid yourself by pretending that just ignoring it isn't a decision, but you're wrong. Of course it is. Every second I was several feet further away from the site of the accident, and every foot made it harder and more risky to turn back.

So I went home. Sometimes inaction is all that you have access to. It should be obvious by this point that I didn't sleep that night. Or the next few nights.

Insomnia left me shaking in my bed, so I went down to the store at five-thirty and picked up the early paper. I scanned it for news of any accidents, and I saw the headline. "Local girl in critical condition after collision with car." My stomach dropped. My jaw dropped. I paid for the paper and ran back to my car.

In the driver's seat. I read the article hurriedly. I skimmed the reactions of Casey's family (Casey. She has a name. Casey.) and felt a pang of guilt at the happiness of seeing "No witnesses could produce a reliable description of the vehicle."

I stood there breathing. I took a moment of perspective: It was five-thirty in the morning and I was sitting in a dark car. The police were not after me. Nobody would blame me for anything that happened. Nobody would even suspect me.

The dent in my fender is still there, although you can't notice it without taking a good look. It doesn't have a shape reminiscent of an eleven-year-old girl, so the irony is completely lost.

I'd like to apologize to her family. I'd like to apologize to her, wherever she is. It's not fair to be cut down in your prime. You have the right to exist, and you certainly deserve it more than I do. Casey, I'm sorry.

In general, vehicular homicide is the unlawful killing of another human being with a motor vehicle. It's not considered murder unless there was provable intent to kill. However, "vehicular homicide" can refer to murder, manslaughter, or negligent homicide -- the only difference here is that a vehicle is the weapon used to kill another person, whether intentionally or unintentionally. However, some degree of negligence, reckless behavior, or intent to harm while driving is what brings on a charge of vehicular homicide.

The precise definitions and punishments for vehicular homicide vary by state/nation and the circumstances of the killing. Some states also consider a homicide caused by a person piloting an airplane or watercraft to be vehicular homicide.

For instance, Georgia classifies vehicular homicide as being first degree or second degree depending on the driver's role in causing the death.

First degree vehicular homicide in that state involves the perpetrator fleeing the scene, being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or driving recklessly to cause the accident. For instance, a death caused by someone illegally drag racing or playing chicken would result in a first-degree charge. A first-degree offense in that state is a felony that can result in up to 15 years in prison.

Second degree vehicular homicide in Georgia is a misdemeanor. A person may be charged with it if they kill someone due to momentary inattention or a simple traffic infraction such as speeding or running a stop sign -- the line between a simple traffic infraction and reckless driving might be in the eye of the beholding judge, but the consequences are important. A person who has a history of traffic accidents or DUIs will often get the more serious charge automatically, regardless of the specifics of the accident at hand. A person convicted of the misdemeanor version may face a jail term of up to 1 year or a fine of up to $1,000.

Thus, in magicmanzach's situation, his fleeing the scene raised his potential criminal charges from a misdemeanor to a felony, if the accident had happened in Georgia or a state with similar laws.

In some states such as Indiana, pedestrians always have the right of way. Thus, if you hit a pedestrian in such a locality, you will almost certainly be charged with vehicular homicide if they die, even if the pedestrian did something reckless like dart out into traffic. When faced with such a charge, you will have to prove beyond a doubt that you were paying full attention and had no way to avoid hitting the person.

As with other forms of homicide, there is no statute of limitations on someone receiving criminal charges due to a vehicular homicide in the U.S. If someone flees the scene of a deadly collision, they may be charged later, even many years later, if sufficient evidence of the crime comes to the attention of the police.

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