A felony charge issued against a 54-year-old woman from Rib Lake alleges she was texting on her phone when she crashed into and killed a mother of two riding her bicycle on a rural road near Marshfield on July 13.
Investigators in the Marathon County Sheriff’s Department pieced together a time line that connected a deleted text message on Lorie Miller’s phone, and the time she hit Donna David biking northbound on County Highway T, about 5:45 p.m. David, a teacher and medical researcher, died later that evening at an area hospital.
According to the complaint, Miller told investigators she didn’t see David, 52, ahead of her on the two-lane highway, and couldn’t understand how she hit her. The driver later told authorities she had sent the text messages before leaving work.
Data retrieved from the phone, however, showed she had texted a friend about three minutes before witnesses phoned 911 to report the crash.
A nine-month investigation led to the charge against Miller, homicide by negligent operation of a motor vehicle, which carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence. She remains free, pending an initial court appearance.
At the time of the crash, David was preparing for her first go in the RAGBRAI bike ride across Iowa. She also participated in triathlons.
Her family has declined to comment on her death, while the prosecution proceeds.
In a similar case, a 19-year-old woman was sentenced to one year in jail for texting on her phone and killing a man riding his bicycle home from work in Kimberly on July 28, 2012. Pa Kou Xiong pleaded no contest in the death of James Weiss, who died on July 28, 2012.
Wisconsin state law prohibits texting while driving, and the offense typically carries a fine of $200 to $400. The penalty may become time in prison when a lack of attention to driving kills someone.
Donna David’s death serves as a reminder that even a momentarily lapse behind the wheel can be fatal, and lead to severe criminal penalties an extreme emotional pain. After being confronted with the evidence, Miller reportedly told authorities she wanted to die herself.