Burlington hit-and-run suspect turns himself in - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Burlington hit-and-run suspect turns himself in

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

It's not how Donna Wixson planned on spending her holiday-- recovering at Birchwood Terrace rehab center in Burlington after being struck by a pickup truck. The driver then took off leaving her helpless in the middle of the road.

"I didn't get to have Christmas. I had a whole lot of anger," Wixson said.

It was one week before Christmas and the 55-year-old had just finished shopping. Wixson was just a few feet from her downtown home, walking alone at night, when the vehicle hit her in the crosswalk at the intersection of Church and Maple streets.

"And nailed me facing the truck," she said.

Wixson says she still remembers everything from that night, including watching the truck take off.

"Getting hit, falling down, being like a pretzel and then feeling the tire going over me," she said.

Based on a witness report, Burlington police said they were looking for a newer-style silver Dodge Ram pickup truck. A few days later, the suspected driver turned himself in after seeing the story on the news.

"Recalled being in the area at the time of accident and felt his vehicle drive over some sort of obstacle or object," Burlington Deputy Police Chief Andi Higbee said.

The driver has been identified as Lionel Persinger, 54, of Burlington. He told police he was collecting cans that night and was unaware he ran over Wixson.

"The gentleman indicated he looked in the rearview mirror and didn't see anything out of the ordinary," Higbee said. "His description of events seems to be contradictory in certain terms, so we are not sure 100 percent how it actually happened."

"I forgive him," Wixson said. "I think it took a lot of courage to come and face what he had seen on the news and come forward with the truth."

Wixson will spend the next few months recovering from two broken ankles, a broken leg and a broken arm. She does not want Persinger to go to prison. Instead, she would like him to give up his license and get rid of his truck since he is blind in one eye.

"He didn't do everything right, but a lot of us don't," she said. "He is the one suffering inside; he has to live with that each day, just like we all have to do when we do so wrong."

Persinger is charged with negligent operation and leaving the scene of an accident with injury resulting. If convicted, he faces up to six years in prison.

Police say since Persinger did not turn himself in until several days after the accident, they don't know if he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs that night.

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