Police name suspect in hit-and-run death

Megan Ratliff
Published:
Updated:

Cat Andersen/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - A south side crash took the life of a 16-year-old girl at the intersection of Shelby and Madison over the weekend, and police are still looking for the driver who hit her.

Megan Ratliff, a Perry Meridian High School student, was killed in the crash, and her sister Kayla was injured.

"If he could just understand an ounce of what he did to me. What I witnessed. I watched her, you know. I was stuck and couldn't help her," said Kayla Ratliff.

Kayla Ratliff, 19, was sitting next to her younger sister, Megan, just before she was killed. Kayla was driving and Megan was in the passenger seat. They were waiting at a red light when a white Nissan Altima suddenly smashed into them, flipping their SUV and sending Megan through the driver's side window.

"When I looked in the mirror and saw that car going about 70 miles an hour, then the impact, and we were both screaming," Kayla said, her hand bandaged. "This is from trying to catch her. My hand went through the window with her and I couldn't push a truck off the top of her."

Police are looking for 21-year-old Israel Espinosa after they questioned the owner of the car.

"I saw her and I was just screaming, and for him to run like a coward. It was a very cowardly thing to do and he deserves what comes to him," said Ratliff.

Detectives say Espinosa may have been drinking that night. They found open bottles of alcohol in the Nissan. As he fled the scene, Megan was dying.

"I tried everything I could do. I was screaming for help and I was praying my heart out," Kayla said.

Now, family and friends are trying to cope with their loss. A memorial with quotes like "I love you so much, but now you're with the angels" marks the crash site and family members are getting ready for a funeral, much too soon.

"I just got back from planning her funeral, which is something you should never have to do - is plan a funeral for a 16-year-old baby. It's awful. I wouldn't wish that upon my worst enemy," said their aunt, Michelle Wright.

Michelle Wright has been the girls' acting guardian since their parents were put in prison. Megan was everything to Kayla.

"They were like best friends. They shared a bedroom. They shared clothes. They shared everything," she said.

All Kayla can think about is what was taken away from her sister.

"She missed out on a lot of life. She never got her first car. She never fell in love," she said.

"It's just awful because she'll never come home," said Wright.

Megan's two other sisters say the siblings had a tight bond.

"We've always been close. We're everything to each other," said Brittany, the youngest sister.

"It'll bring us a lot closer and we miss her very much," said Sawa Ratliff.

Meanwhile, grief counselors are at Perry Meridian High School to help students cope with the shocking loss of one of their classmates. Some classmates learned of her death for the first time when they arrived at school Monday. Several people contributed teddy bears and other mementos near the crash site.

Megan's mother and father will be allowed to attend their daughter's funeral. Her mother's release date had already been scheduled for Monday an she is now out of prison. Her father will return to prison after attending the funeral.

Anyone with information on Israel Espinosa's current location is asked to call IMPD or Crime Stoppers at 317-262-TIPS. Police believe he may be in the United States illegally.

Megan's family is also pleading for the public's help in finding the suspect.

"[He] took away an innocent person's life and she never had no chance at life," Kayla said.