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Prosecutor declines criminal charges in Lisbon crash that killed 14-year-old bicyclist

Bethany Elijah, shown here at a basketball game, was fatally struck by an SUV while she was riding a bicycle Thursday, July 20, 2017. The Lisbon, N.D., girl was 14 years old. Special to The Forum

LISBON, N.D. — No charges will be filed against a 75-year-old driver who struck a 14-year-old student-athlete over the summer while she was biking from her farm to Lisbon High School.

Ransom County State's Attorney Fallon Kelly said in a decision letter that after reviewing the toxicology report of the driver, Dennis Reinke of Lisbon, and the crash report from the North Dakota Highway Patrol that he would not be prosecuting Reinke.

On July 20, Reinke was driving an SUV a half mile east of Lisbon on 68th Street Southeast when he hit 14-year-old Bethany Elijah, who died at the scene. The collision occurred on a hill and curve in the road at about 9 a.m.

Kelly said he wrote the Oct. 24 decision letter at the request of Elijah's parents, Paul and Teena, who he was in consultation with following the girl's death. The state's attorney wrote that he was "exercising prosecutorial discretion" to close the case because there was no evidence that the crash was anything other than accidental.

Kelly wrote that there was no toxicology information that indicated the collision involved any drugs or alcohol.

Teena Elijah told The Forum the day after the crash that her daughter "was all the things you want to see your child become."

"She was very engaged in the community, and she wore her heart on her sleeve in everything she did," her mother said. "She was everything good."

Friends are keeping memories of Bethany alive through a Facebook page where many continue to share stories and photos from bonfires, basketball games and the farm. Special tributes were made Sept. 30, honoring what would have been Bethany's 15th birthday.

Kim Hyatt

Kim Hyatt is a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and a 2014 graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth. She started her newspaper career at the Owatonna People’s Press covering arts and education. In 2016, she received Minnesota Newspaper Association's Dave Pyle New Journalist Award and later that year she joined The Forum newsroom.

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