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Epiphany man arrested for DUI, hit-and-run after running over 6-year-old girl on private property

The 6-year-old victim was playing with a kitten in her driveway, on private property, when the suspect entered the property, ran her over and left, the Hanson County Sheriff said.

Hanson County Courthouse.jpg
The Hanson County Courthouse in Alexandria.
Mitchell Republic file photo
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EPIPHANY, S.D. — An Epiphany man is in jail after he allegedly, while under the influence of alcohol, ran over a girl who was playing in her driveway.

Donald Letcher, 58, of Epiphany, was arrested Tuesday on charges of driving under the influence, hit-and-run from an injury crash and failure to report a crash to law enforcement.

At approximately 8 p.m. Tuesday, police in Hanson County were dispatched to a rural property near the intersection of 422nd Avenue and 246th Street, roughly seven miles southwest of Epiphany or nine miles northeast of Fulton, for a report of a child being run over.

According to Hanson County Sheriff Brandon Wingert, Letcher was driving a pickup in the area when he drove onto private property and struck the girl who was playing with a kitten in the driveway. The girl tumbled underneath the pickup and sustained minor injuries, consisting of cuts and scrapes.

Letcher then allegedly circled around a farm building and left the property, but not before a witness was able to hop in their vehicle and follow Letcher to his home in Epiphany.

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Wingert said the victim's family and the suspect are unknown to eachother.

Roughly 20 minutes after the initial call, authorities were able to locate Letcher at his home. Wingert said Letcher failed field sobriety tests and that a preliminary breath test resulted in a .216 reading, roughly 2.75 times the legal limit.

With assistance from the Miner County Sheriff’s Office and the South Dakota Highway Patrol, Wingert said he’s grateful the situation ended with minor injuries and an arrest.

“We got lucky there. God was definitely looking after this little girl,” Wingert said. “We’re glad we were able to catch this guy and that the girl is going to be OK.”

Letcher was booked into jail and is currently being held on a $5,000 cash-only bond. He’s due to appear in a Hanson County courtroom on July 20.

Though Wingert said additional charges are possible, if Letcher is convicted on what he currently faces, he could be sentenced to serve up to three years and one month in prison, plus be ordered to pay fines of up to $6,500.

Letcher has two prior convictions for driving under the influence, one from March 2005 and another from December 1999. When considering elevated sentencing for repeated DUI offenses, South Dakota law dictates that only convictions within the past decade may be considered.

A South Dakota native, Hunter joined Forum Communications Company as a reporter for the Mitchell (S.D.) Republic in June 2021. After over a year in Mitchell, he moved to Milwaukee, where he now works as a digital reporter for Forum News Service, focusing on regional news that impacts the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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