The driver in a Thursday morning accident that killed an 8-year-old girl initially told police he thought he hit a mailbox, but he allegedly told his employer that he hit a deer because hitting a mailbox is a chargeable accident.
The driver, Lance Lee, 49, of DeKalb, Illinois, is accused of hitting and killing Destiny Chambers along Newman Road in northeast Joplin just before 7 a.m. Thursday. Chambers was an elementary student at Soaring Heights, and law enforcement officials say she was hit by Lee's truck as she crossed Newman Road to board a school bus.
Lee left the scene and was located by the Missouri State Highway Patrol at YRC Freight in Strafford, near Springfield, according to a probable-cause statement. He was driving a 2017 Freightliner tractor trailer, which sustained damage to the front bumper.
Sections of broken bumper from the crash scene were taken to YRC Freight, and police matched them with the damage to Lee's vehicle, according to the statement. Pink fibers from Chambers' clothes were also found on Lee's vehicle, as well as blood and skin, the statement said.
During questioning, Lee first told police that he hit a deer on Interstate 44 near the 46 mile marker, authorities said. He later allegedly admitted to being at the crash scene and told police he saw the school bus stopped on Sunny Slope Lane and thought he hit a mailbox, according to the probable-cause statement.
Lee told police that he told his trucking company he hit a deer because hitting a mailbox is a chargeable accident and he would have lost time. Lee was charged Thursday in Jasper County Circuit Court with leaving the scene of an accident, a class D felony.
Lee was being held in the Jasper County Jail on Friday morning on a $10,000 cash bond. An arraignment has not yet been scheduled.