17-year-old fatally struck by driver in Forest Lake was high school student who dreamed of becoming a veterinarian

18 July 2023

The teenage girl who died after prosecutors say she was intentionally run over during a fight between two groups of people in downtown Forest Lake early Sunday loved animals and dreamed of becoming a veterinarian.

Darisha Tela Bailey Vath, 17, of Stacy, Minn., died after she was struck by a Mazda 3 driven by Dylan Robert Simmons, 20, of North Branch, around 1:20 a.m. Sunday, according to Capt. Greg Weiss of the Forest Lake Police Department. The two knew each other, he said.

Dylan Robert Simmons (Courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office)

When Forest Lake police officers responded to Lakeside Memorial Park on Broadway Avenue, they found a bystander performing chest compressions on Vath in the parking lot. Officers, firefighters and EMTs worked to save Vath, but she died at the scene, police said.

Several witnesses, including ones who were on the same side of the fight as Simmons, told police that he intentionally drove in the direction of several people from the opposing side, the criminal complaint said. He collided with the rear of a vehicle that included five people on the other side of the fight.

According to the complaint, witnesses told police Simmons then backed up and again drove directly toward several people who were near another vehicle, striking Vath with the front passenger side of his car and driving over her with all four tires.

An online fundraiser has been set up to help Vath’s family with legal expenses.

“The criminals used their car as a choice of weapon and intentionally hit our precious baby girl and killed her,” according to the post on GoFundMe. “Not only that they tried to hit her once, but 3 times. The third time resulted in her death. This was no accident, this was murder. Their actions were filled with rage and malice. … The choices they made were premeditated.”

Vath, who would have graduated from high school next spring, dreamed of becoming a veterinarian, according to the post.

“All those dreams have been shattered, because of these violent men,” the post states. “We will never see our daughter, niece, sister and cousin fulfill her future. We want all who are involved to be held accountable for their actions and not have a family go through the heartache we went through. We will never see our vibrant, precious baby girl again.”

A video, recorded by a witness at the scene and obtained by police, shows Simmons’ car “lift up as it drove over” the teen and sped away from the scene, according to the complaint.

After leaving Vath seriously injured, Simmons and his male passenger fled the scene in the Mazda. Police later had contact with the passenger and talked both men into returning to the scene, according to the complaint.

The Washington County attorney’s office charged Simmons on Monday with third-degree murder and criminal vehicular homicide. Simmons, who was arrested at the scene, was set to appear in Washington County District Court on Tuesday morning.

The passenger in the Mazda had not been identified or charged by officials as of Tuesday morning. Police are still investigating, Weiss said.

Vath, who was born in Rochester, was a “sweet, caring and loving person with a strong personality,” according to her obituary.  “Darisha loved everyone; she wouldn’t even hurt a fly. She loved any animals that she had contact with. If she could adopt them, she would in a heartbeat.”

Vath always made time for family and had a bright smile that could light up any room, her obituary states. “It was a priceless one. We will miss her silliness, goofy and crazy personality.”

A celebration of life for Vath will be 2 p.m. Saturday at the Ranfranz & Vine Funeral Home in Rochester, with visitation one hour prior.

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