CLIVE, Iowa — An Iowa woman is charged with attempted murder after police allege she intentionally struck a 14-year-old girl with her car earlier this month -- and later admitted she did it because the girl is Hispanic.
Clive police Chief Mike Venema said during a Friday morning news conference that Nicole Marie Poole Franklin, 42, of Des Moines, is charged with attempted murder in the attack. Investigators are looking into whether the incident can be prosecuted by the Polk County Attorney’s Office as a hate crime.
The chief expressed horror over Franklin’s admission.
“Shock would be an understatement,” Venema said. “I’ve been in law enforcement for 35 years and I get very used to people being a little bit callous or maybe leaving the scene of an accident and not caring about someone who’s been hurt if they did so unintentionally. I was very shocked to hear that this was an intentional act.”
Watch Venema speak about the crime below, courtesy of KCWI 23 in West Des Moines.
Venema said attempted murder is the most serious charge detectives could file in the incident, which took place Dec. 9 as the girl, identified by KCCI in Des Moines as Natalia Miranda, walked to a basketball game at Indian Hills Junior High School.
“During that time, a vehicle left the roadway and ran this girl over,” Venema said. “She suffered numerous injuries. The driver and vehicle left the scene without rendering aid to the girl.”
Miranda talked to KCCI two days after the crash as she recovered at her family’s home from a concussion and other injuries.
“I don’t remember the impact, I just remember the car coming towards me,” she said.
Investigators believe the girl remained unconscious in the snow for at least 15 minutes before regaining consciousness and stumbling the remaining few blocks to the school for help, KCCI reported.
In the days after the crash, Clive police investigators asked for the public’s help tracking down the driver. In a Facebook post, the department requested security camera footage from any residents in the area who have surveillance systems outside their homes.
“At that time, it appeared to be a hit-and-run accident,” Venema said.
Detectives on Thursday identified the driver of the vehicle as Franklin, the chief said. They went to the Polk County Jail, where Franklin was being held on separate charges from an unrelated arrest about an hour after the hit-and-run, to interview her.
“During the interview, Franklin not only admitted to being the driver of the car that struck this girl, but also that she had done so intentionally,” Venema said. “Franklin told investigators that she ran the girl over because she was, in her words, ‘a Mexican.’
“She went on to make a number of derogatory statements about Latinos to our investigators.”
Franklin remained in the Polk County Jail Friday morning.
Venema said the family of the injured girl, in dealing with the new information, has requested privacy from the media. In an interview with KCCI following the incident, her parents expressed anger.
“What kind of human being do that?” asked her father, Cesar Miranda. “When I got there (to the school), I saw her shaking, crying, scared.”
Venema also expressed disdain Friday over the allegations against Franklin.
”I want to say, in the strongest terms possible, that there is no place in our community, or any other for that matter, for this type of hatred or violence,” he said. ”We are committed to stand by and support this family and work diligently with them to seek justice.”
The chief said he spent a good deal of time with the family following Franklin’s arrest, to ensure that they know they have a support network in place, including his department.
Lisa Remy, superintendent of the West Des Moines Community Schools, thanked detectives for their diligence in investigating the crime against the girl, who is a student at Indian Hills Junior High.
“We are grateful that her injuries were not life-threatening and that she was able to return to school a week later,” Remy said at the news conference. “As she continues to physically improve, we understand the emotional impact of the incident will remain long after her body heals.”
Remy said it was particularly difficult to comprehend how someone could intentionally harm an innocent child.
Venema said it was a combination of things, including “good old-fashioned police work,” that led to Franklin’s identification as the suspect.
“From the moment this happened, our officers were out knocking on doors, checking for home video, surveillance, checking with bus drivers, anything they could find, because initially, we had very little evidence to go on,” he said. “As it continued, we were able to develop a suspect vehicle and find that our suspect in this had been arrested in a similar vehicle about an hour after this, in West Des Moines.”
The chief said it was not yet clear if Franklin was out specifically looking for someone to harm the afternoon of the attack.
“Obviously, she made a decision at that moment in time, when she saw this young girl and made a determination about her ethnicity, and chose to purposely do that,” Venema said.
Venema said officers have had contact with Franklin in the past, though details of those interactions were not immediately available.
KCCI reported that Franklin was charged Dec. 9 with assault. She is accused of going to a West Des Moines convenience store and, using racist language toward a clerk and customers, throwing items at the store employee.
The assault charge is what she was jailed for when investigators interviewed her about the attack on Natalia Miranda.