Tim Ryan email@example.com
(Editor’s Note: This is the last of a four-part series looking back at the unsolved hit-and-run that took the life six years ago of Timothy J. Meade.)
Shawano County authorities have closed the books on the case due to the statute of limitations having run out on any possible prosecution, but the investigation ends without any clear answers as to how the accident happened or who was responsible.
“I personally feel a little bit frustrated,” said Autumn Edwards, Meade’s sister. “I know that a lot more stuff could be done about it and somewhere along the line the ball got dropped.”
Meade’s stepfather, Steve Edwards, said he is angry.
“I’m angry that we weren’t able to find out certain things for quite some time,” he said. “There was definitely an error in the handling of some information.”
The Shawano County Sheriff’s Department has alleged that Shawano police learned of a possible suspect shortly after the hit-and-run and never passed that information on to county investigators.
The city has denied that and maintains the information was passed along, but the passing of that information was never documented by city police.
“They dropped the ball,” said Steve Edwards. “If we’d have had that information six years ago, the sheriff’s department could have seized a vehicle and tested it for DNA and that would have either ruled someone out or pointed at that person directly. This case would have been over in three days.”
The sheriff’s department identified the suspect in its case file. The Leader is not naming that person because no charges have been filed. The case file also provides no evidence that the suspect named was, in fact, responsible for Meade’s death.
Her name was already circulating in social media, even before the Meade family posted the summary of the sheriff’s department investigation that names her.
“It was going to be released by someone anyway,” Steve Edwards said. “So many people were like, ‘So where’s the report? When are we going to see it? Release it already.’”
He said he knew several people were going to obtain the case file and the summary, which are public record now that the case is closed.
Steve Edwards said his daughter released the summary.
“Before she did she made it clear that it was in no way an accusation but the name of the suspected individual was in it along with several other people that, in some way, played a part in the investigation,” he said.
“Even though there were no charges brought there was still only one person of interest. No others,” Steve Edwards said. “People say she was picked on but had there been more than just one name to ever float around it would have changed the narrative a little. What would her father or mother do if it were her that died on that road? I can tell you I’m pretty sure they would have done and thought the same as us.”
“I’m very angry,” said Eileen Wery, Meade’s mother. “I’m very puzzled by how somebody can live their life like nothing ever happened and not come forward and how people can help them stay quiet.”
Wery said the suspect is being protected by friends and family members who provided conflicting accounts to authorities.
“Everybody’s just trying to protect her,” Wery said.
Wery said it’s the speculation that is the hardest to deal with.
“I want to know if he suffered,” she said. “I want to know how it happened. How could you let me go six years of the what-ifs and the guessing games? I got a million what-ifs and wondering what the hell happened and all I can do is speculate and it always comes to the worst because I don’t know any different.”
Wery said her son deserves answers to the family’s questions.
“There is no justice. It’s not going to bring him back to throw her in jail and take her away from her kids. It’s not going to bring my son back,” she said. “But it would answer my what-ifs.”
Family members say that at this point they just want answers.
“We’re not looking for a prosecution or money or reward or anything,” Autumn Edwards said. “We just want to know what happened. Why didn’t the person stop? Why didn’t they call for help? Why didn’t they do anything? We know it was an accident. We know the whole situation was an accident, but we just want to know what actually happened.”
Those are the same questions Steve Edwards has.
“What’s your story? What happened? That’s all I want to know,” he said. “It was an accident. Anyone could have done it. I don’t think there was any malice or ill intent involved, but something happened. I’d like to know what happened.”
Meade’s sister, Sieanna Edwards, said the investigation is not what matters.
“The investigation to me wasn’t the important part,” she said. “Whether she went to jail or not, or he, or whoever did it went to jail or not, it wouldn’t have changed the fact that he’s gone. I really just wanted to know what happened. What went through their mind that the first thing they decided to do was to leave the scene rather than call 911?”
Meade’s cousin, Danny Anderson, also said the investigation doesn’t change the outcome.
“Even if someone’s prosecuted, he’s not going to come back,” Anderson said. “I hope that she can live with herself and that she somehow deals with it the way that she sees fit and she can answer for it in front of God, but with the case being closed, that doesn’t really affect me. There’s nothing we can do.
“Everybody involved in covering that up is going to have to live with that.”
For some family members, finding closure under these circumstances is difficult.
“At one point I just kind of accepted that it was going to be a cold case and I’d never hear anything,” Wery said. “And then five years later I get a phone call (from the sheriff’s department) saying, ‘I think we have a suspect’ and they were going to do some interviews. And I was right back to square one, right back to the day it happened.”
Steve Edwards said the family has no choice but to move on.
“There’s nothing that can be done about anything,” he said. “The initial shock and anger and all that, it rears its ugly head, but we have no choice.”
He said there are certain times of the year that are more difficult.
“But you have to move on,” he said. “He’s not going to get any older than 22. That’s as old as he’ll ever get, and it’s not fair.”
Anderson said it would be nice to see some sort of justice if it would bring closure to members of his family.
However, he said, he has made his own peace.
“He’s buried in Stephenson(, Michigan). That’s where we grew up,” Anderson said. “And every time I go through there, I sit with him for a little bit. I don’t need to see someone prosecuted for there to be a different feeling for me, because nothing’s going to change.”
Sieanna Edwards said the case had attracted a lot of attention and interest from the community.
“I want to thank everyone who did get involved and try to help out and I know Tim would have appreciated all the support he had from the community that didn’t know him,” she said.