Grieving mother makes plea for hit-and-run driver to come forward

Nikki Lanpher

Indianapolis Metro Police are looking for two people in the same incident: one for a hit-and-run on a group of teenagers and one who allegedly fired shots at the car.

It happened late Tuesday near the corner of Washington and Gladstone on the city's east side. Witnesses say the driver was talking to a group of girls -- and when they ignored him, he drove off the road and into the group. The impact broke a 17-year-old girl's leg. Police say someone opened fire on the car, but no one was shot.

Detectives have a good record at catching hit-and-run drivers so far this year. They have had 11 serious hit-and-run crashes and solved nine of them.

Eyewitness News talked with a crash scene investigator and a family still looking for the driver who killed their daughter.

"It's time to stop keeping your secret," said Rose Gagen. She says she won't rest until the driver who struck and killed her daughter Nikki Lanpher is caught or has the heart to come forward.

"They could never bring back my daughter but they could acknowledge what they did especially for her daughters. They are three and six," said Gagen.

The driver struck Nikki, the mother of two girls, as she walked home about July 19 a year ago in the 2700 block of North Raceway Road. A cross marks the spot where family eventually found her body. The car most likely sustained front-end damage.

"Detectives are pretty good about identifying vehicles from car parts," said Det. Doug Heustis, IMPD Crash Investigations section.

That's exactly what hit and run investigators look for, too. Usually pieces from the car start a trail of evidence back to the driver.

"A lot of times we will see headlights knocked out, pieces of the grill broken away from the vehicle, damage to the hood and damage to the windshield which is very distinctive," said Det. Heustis.

Still, detectives count largely on witnesses helping with information. That's something Nikki's family hopes will happen even after going a year with no answers about the driver who she suspects knows what happened.

"They need to let that secret out so they can come to terms with it," said Gagen.