An Iowa woman is charged with attempted murder following allegations by police that she intentionally struck a 14-year-old girl with her car this month — and later confessed she did it because the girl is Mexican.
Clive police Chief Mike Venema stated 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 investigating whether the incident can be prosecuted by the Polk County Attorney’s Office as a hate crime.
The chief expressed horror with regard to Franklin’s admission.
“Shock would be an understatement,” Venema stated. “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 a crash 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.”
Venema said attempted murder is the most severe charge detectives could file in the incident, which occurred on December 9 as the girl, identified by KCCI in Des Moines as Natalia Miranda, went to a basketball game at Indian Hills Junior High School.
“During that time, a vehicle left the roadway and ran this girl over,” Venema stated. “She suffered numerous injuries. The driver and vehicle left the scene without rendering aid to the girl.”
Miranda discussed with KCCI two days following 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 stated.
Investigators believe the girl remained unconscious in the snow for 15 minutes before she would regain consciousness and stumbling the remaining few blocks to the school for help, KCCI stated.
In the days following the crash, Clive police investigators looked for the public’s help tracking down the driver. In a Facebook post, the department requested security camera footage from any residents in the location who have surveillance systems outside their homes.
“At that time, it appeared to be a hit-and-run accident,” Venema stated.
Detectives on Thursday identified the driver of the car as Franklin. They went to the Polk County Jail, where Franklin was being held on different charges from an unrelated arrest about an hour following the hit-and-run, to interview her.
“During the interview, Franklin not only confessed to being the driver of the car that struck this girl but also that she had done so intentionally,” Venema stated. “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 was in the Polk County Jail Friday morning.
Venema stated the family of the victim, in dealing with the new details from the investigation, has asked privacy from the media. In an interview with KCCI after the incident, her parents expressed anger.
“What kind of human being do that?” said her father, Cesar Miranda. “When I got there (to the school), I saw her shaking, crying, scared.”
Venema also expressed disdain Friday concerning 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 stated. ”We are committed to stand by and support this family and work diligently with them to seek justice.”
The chief stated he spent a good deal of time with the family after Franklin’s arrest, to make sure 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 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 stated 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 hard to comprehend how someone could intentionally harm an innocent child.
Venema stated it was a combination of things, including “good old-fashioned police work,” that resulted in Franklin’s identification as the suspect.
“From the moment this happened, our officers were out knocking on doors, checking for home video, surveillance, investigating bus drivers, anything they could find, because initially, we had very little evidence to go on,” he stated. “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 stated it was unclear 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 observed this young girl and made a determination about her ethnicity, and chose to purposely do that,” Venema stated.
Venema stated officers have had contact with Franklin before as well, though information about those interactions was not available right away.
KCCI reported that Franklin was charged December 9 with assault. She is accused of going to a West Des Moines convenience store and, using racist language toward a clerk and consumers, throwing objects at the store employee.
The assault charge is what she had been jailed for when investigators interviewed her regarding the attack on Natalia Miranda.