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Archive for Wednesday, September 25, 2002

District attorney awaits police report to determine whether to file charges

September 25, 2002

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Nearly a week after she was struck by a hit-and-run driver on Iowa Street, a social worker noted for her work with foster children died Tuesday.

Heather Coulter, 24, of Lawrence was pronounced dead Tuesday morning at KU Med in Kansas City, Kan., Lawrence Police said.

Coulter suffered a skull fracture and other broken bones when she was hit by a car about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday at 19th and Iowa streets, police said.

An autopsy was to be performed today in Topeka by the Douglas County Coroner, said Lawrence Police Sgt. Mike Pattrick.

Coulter, who worked for The Farm Inc., a foster care firm, was standing beside her stalled car when she was hit.

Michael Browning of Lawrence witnessed the accident. Tuesday, he described what he saw:

"I saw the car and I saw the hood was open; I think the driver's side door was open, too. My first impression was that it was a breakdown."

He looked away for a few seconds, and when he looked back, he saw Coulter in the intersection, about 40 feet away from her car.

"I didn't think it was her; I thought it was some blankets or clothes that spilled out of a car," Browning said. "Traffic was going along as usual, it wasn't stopping. Some of the people were still making turns about 15 feet from her body. I got out and approached her and noticed that it was a human being ... I made sure she was breathing. I was very upset at the time."

A 17-year-old girl was arrested after the incident on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. She was released to a parent pending completion of the police investigation and results of blood tests.

Police investigating the accident said the 17-year-old girl's car also struck another vehicle while swerving to avoid hitting Coulter's car.

Prosecutors had been keeping abreast of Coulter's condition while awaiting the police investigative report, said Douglas County Dist. Atty. Christine Kenney. She said a decision on whether to file charges would not be made until the investigation was complete.

Co-workers with The Farm office in Overland Park where Coulter worked, as well as those elsewhere in the firm who knew her, expressed shock and sadness last week after learning about the accident. Her co-workers and other officials Tuesday declined to talk about Coulter, respecting her family's request that they not talk to reporters.

Coulter also was a counselor and volunteer at Headquarters Counseling Center, 211 E. Eighth St. Director Marcia Epstein declined to comment at the request of the family.

Said Browning, the eyewitness, "I hear she was a social worker and helped kids. It's unfortunate to lose someone when she's needed like that so greatly."

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