AURORA | Two years ago last month, a pickup truck driver struck and killed a 16-year-old Aurora girl on her way to her 10 a.m. class at Smoky Hill High School.
Now, her mother is calling for harsher laws to punish such motorists.
Melissa McKenzie has launched a change.org petition asking for stricter repercussions for drivers who kill pedestrians.
“This is what is helping me to cope with the fact that she’s not here,” McKenzie said of her efforts. “If we can change any kind of law to make it stricter on what people get when this type of situation happens, it probably would have saved a lot of lives.”
McKenzie’s daughter, Victoria, died four days after 50-year-old Larry Fuller struck her with his gray Dodge Ram at the intersection of South Buckley Road and East Quincy Avenue. Fuller dragged Victoria for more than a mile before parking in his driveway at 5028 S. Quintero Cir., according to police reports.
Witnesses who saw the collision and followed Fuller’s pickup truck said Victoria was conscious when the vehicle eventually stopped.
One witness “went up to the girl and asked her if she was ok and the girl responded, ‘Is this a dream?,’” according to a police narrative of the incident. Victoria told the witness she didn’t remember what happened, but was able to confirm her name.
One other woman spoke with police after watching Fuller drive past her while dragging Victoria.
“I just saw her hanging like a hammock under the vehicle,” the woman told police. “Her body was swinging a little bit.”
Investigators had no indication that Fuller knew he had struck Victoria and that she was caught under his truck. There was also no indication he was intoxicated.
City staffers confirmed that the traffic lights in the area were working properly at the time of the collision, and that sun glare was unlikely an issue, according to police reports. The weather was about 32 degrees and partly cloudy.
Fuller told police he thought he hit a traffic cone, according to police reports.
“He felt a bump in the road and looked back to see what it was,” Fuller told police in an interview. “He also exclaimed to himself, ‘What the hell was that?’ When he looked back he recalled seeing a crunched, rust-orange traffic cone that he thought was going to cost the city a couple of bucks. Because he did not see the victim and saw a traffic cone when he looked back he drove on.”
Fuller eventually noticed Victoria in his driveway after parking his truck. He noticed her after he had backed up to correct the first angle at which he had parked.
“I look up and (chokes up, voice volume drops) there’s, there’s this little, this little, this little person, and then in my driveway,” Fuller told police at the scene, according to police reports. “I don’t know where she came from. I don’t know where — I swear to you … My heart is broken right now. I don’t know what happened.”
Fuller’s wife and the pair of witnesses gave Victoria a glass of water and a washcloth while she was sitting in the driveway waiting for emergency medical personnel to arrive.
The collision occurred less than a month after Victoria’s sweet 16, McKenzie said.
“That’s the best part of a person’s life,” McKenzie said through tears. “They get their driver’s license, they get a car, they get a job.”
She said Victoria, a standout student at Smoky Hill High School, was an aspiring nurse.
Victoria ultimately died of “delayed complications of blunt force and friction injuries of the trunk and extremities,” according to a coroner’s report. She broke multiple ribs and her pelvis in the incident and later experienced kidney and liver failure.
McKenzie said Fuller didn’t face enough punishment for his involvement in her daughter’s death.
Police determined Victoria was “well established in the crosswalk” and that Fuller was at fault.
“It was the responsibility of Fuller to clear the travel lane before continuing on into his right turn,” police wrote. “Fuller’s turn was improper.”
Fuller was fined, required to perform 100 hours of community service and sentenced to one year of probation after pleading guilty to the traffic charge of careless driving resulting in death in 2018, according to court records. He had his license suspended for one year and paid nearly $2,500 in restitution.
A civil case in the matter was closed with prejudice in January 2019.
That wasn’t enough, according to McKenzie.
“Whether it’s an accident or not, they shouldn’t be allowed to drive a year after they’ve taken somebody’s life,” she said. “It’s just the simple fact that they have killed somebody. It should be more than a misdemeanor.”
Mckenzie, who moved back to the Orlando, Florida area after her daughter was killed, said she hasn’t spoken with any specific legislators about bolstering state laws, though she wants improvements across the country — not just on a state-by-state basis.
She said she’s created a Facebook page entitled “Victoria McKenzie’s Law” asking for stiffer penalties for people charged with similar traffic offenses.
“Maybe if it were more real instead of just a slap on the wrist people would actually take the time to pay attention to what they’re doing,” she said.
Late last year, McKenzie coordinated with city and state officials to erect a sign calling for safer driving near the intersection where her daughter was killed.
She said coping with Victoria’s death has been a daily struggle.
“Every picture that we take now there’s an empty spot,” she said. “Every time we sit down for dinner, there’s an empty spot. I guess my big thing is, with our tragedy, I want something good to come of it.”
She has until the end of the month to gather several thousand more signatures to validate her petition to the federal government on change.org. She currently has about 2,700 signatures.