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For Victim’s Family, a $10 Fee and an Agonizing Wait

3:59 PM EST on November 29, 2007

In the weeks since their daughter lost her life on a Lower Manhattan street, Hope Miller's parents have learned to be patient.

On September 25, Miller was on her way to acting class when she was hit by a truck at the corner of Houston Street and Sixth Avenue. According to reports, Roger Smiley, 48, of Brooklyn, was fleeing the scene of a collision at Sixth and Spring Street when he turned right, where Miller and two classmates were crossing Houston. Her friends managed to clear Smiley's path, but Miller didn't make it. Hope died before reaching St. Vincent's Hospital. She was 28.

Initial media coverage said Smiley was charged with resisting arrest, driving under the influence of drugs and leaving the scene, and that he was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. Police at first speculated that he was on cocaine. Barbara Thompson, public information officer with Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau's office, says Smiley has since put forth a differing account.

"He made a claim that he passed out, that he suffered a stroke," Thompson says. Smiley missed his initial court appearance because, according to his attorney, he was in the hospital.

As Smiley provides medical records to the authorities, Miller's parents, Ivan and Patricia, continue to wait it out from their home in Appleton, Wisconsin.

"To me it's a little, 'disconcerting' I think would be the term, that it takes so long," says Mr. Miller, speaking with Streetsblog before Thanksgiving. Some six weeks after Hope was killed, the Millers had yet to receive a report from the NYPD, for which they had to mail in $10. Miller says it took almost a month before they learned the results of Smiley's blood test -- negative for drugs and alcohol, according to police. Himself a science teacher, Miller doesn't understand how a relatively simple procedure could take so much time.

But Mr. Miller isn't angry. To the contrary, he goes out of his way to compliment the city agencies working Hope's case. The medical examiner, he says, was quick to inform them of Hope's autopsy results. And Miller clearly doesn't envy the job of New York police detectives, who he says have been very attentive.

"They're busy folks, I know," Miller says. "It wasn't that they weren't trying to help. It's just that whatever the channels are, they're just slow."

As of now, little else is known -- at least publicly -- about where the case is headed.

"What's happening," says Thompson, "is there is an investigation into what was actually happening when this woman was killed."

Once the Police Department concludes its work, the DA's office will decide what charges, if any, to pursue against Smiley.

"Initially it was aggravating," says Mr. Miller. "You wish it was faster, but I'm not in control of that. So that's the way it is.

"For me, it's hard," he adds, his voice breaking, "because I'd like to know."

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