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Police arrest man suspected of hitting and killing a woman with his truck and then driving away

UPDATED: Mon., Nov. 13, 2017, 10:14 p.m.

Melissa Tolliver was on her way to Burger King on Saturday night to get dinner for her family when the truck hit her.

And then, police say, the driver sped away. The mother of two was pronounced dead at the scene.

“She was hungry,” her sister Malinda Galbraith repeated over and over during a phone conversation Monday morning. “And the gentleman hit her and left her there.”

According to police, the 42-year-old Tolliver was crossing East Holland Avenue near North Newport Highway in north Spokane just after 8:30 p.m. when a truck rammed into her as she was crossing in the crosswalk. The woman’s family said the impact threw her several feet into the air.

Tolliver died of blunt head, chest and abdominal injuries, the Spokane County Medical Examiner ruled. Her death was ruled a “vehicular accident.”

Witnesses described to officers seeing a large, green truck with a dark or metallic blue-colored extended cab hit the woman and then drive away. Later that night, police found a truck matching the description near Buckeye Avenue and Lee Street, with damage to its front end that matched the type of damage consistent with the fatal incident.

They arrested the driver, 36-year-old Bobby F. Bowerman.

Tolliver’s mother, Joan Owens, questioned how someone could hit another human being and not stop to see if they were OK.

“She was in the crosswalk,” the teary-eyed mother and grandmother said in her north Spokane home Monday afternoon. “Surely to God, if you hit someone you would know it.”

Owens and her husband, John, both retired, said Tolliver was homeless but staying in a trailer with her husband and adult son behind a gas station near North Division Street. The Owenses said they tried several times to get her to stay with them, but she’d repeatedly told them “Momma, we wanna do it our way.”

“That’s Lisa,” her mother said.

Tolliver’s sister, Michelle Perryman, said her sister’s death came at the worst time. Not only were they about to move into an apartment on Tuesday, according to conversations she had with Tolliver’s husband after she died, but one of her sons committed suicide not too long ago, leaving her husband and other son alone.

And there isn’t money to cover funeral costs. Perryman’s daughter started a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for a service, but she said money was so tight that they couldn’t even afford a headstone for Tolliver’s son.

“Your heart just goes out and bleeds for them,” Joan Owens said of her daughter’s family.

Tolliver, who was nicknamed “Frog Lips” by her father after she tried unsuccessfully to get him to kiss a frog, was described by Joan Owens as someone who would “give you the socks and shoes off her feet if you asked her.”

“That’s Lisa,” she repeated.

Her sisters said she was very loved. The youngest of three, Galbraith said if she could, she’d gladly swap places with her sister.

“I’m just lost,” she said. “I can’t believe this. I just can’t believe it.”

Bowerman appeared in court Monday; details of the charges against him are expected to be filed Tuesday.


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