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LAWRENCE, Ind. — For the family of Jonathan Macklin, Mother’s Day means something different, and with it comes a sense of hope that they will get the answers they’ve been seeking for seven years.
Macklin, or “JMac,” was killed in a hit-and-run along Pendleton Pike near McCoy Street on the night of May 10, 2015, just days after he celebrated his 25th birthday along with his twin sister.
“It happened on Mother’s Day, which is the last time I spoke with my son, and the last time he gave me flowers, and the last time he smiled, the last time that I will ever get the chance to see him,” said his mother, Julianna Sliger.
Sliger, who lost her only son when he was killed in the crash, said Macklin was a smart, hard worker who enjoyed giving back through volunteerism, and was looking forward to beginning a master’s program he’d enrolled in. He never got the chance to begin the next chapter in his education.
“He had so many dreams that he wanted to accomplish; marriage, having children,” said Sliger.
According to Lawrence police, Macklin was traveling eastbound on Pendleton Pike when a driver in an SUV exited a nearby shopping plaza and pulled into his path, causing the crash. He was wearing a helmet, but the impact was too severe, and Macklin was pronounced dead at the scene.
“The driver of that vehicle did not stop, did not even slow down, did not even check to see if Jonathan was okay,” said LPD Chief Gary Woodruff.
“The driving away part is the worst part of the story,” said Sliger. “I can’t even imagine a human hit another person and did not even help.”
Despite investigators sharing surveillance video and a description of the white SUV, believed to be a GMC Yukon or Chevrolet Tahoe between the year 2000 and 2006, they still haven’t been able to make an arrest in the case.
“At this point, the biggest thing is, your heart goes out to this family,” Woodruff said. “This is still a grieving family, seven years later.”
According to police, investigators have put in thousands of hours of investigative work on the case, trying to track down the vehicle involved and identify who the driver was.
“We’ve investigated tips that have come in from literally all over the Midwest,” said Woodruff.
Around the time the crash happened, Woodruff said BMV records showed more than 7,000 registered vehicles in central Indiana that matched the description of the suspect vehicle. Despite investigators being able to weed out several hundred of those, they’re still searching for answers in hopes of bringing them to Macklin’s family.
“They’ve worked through every lead that we have, every investigative resource that we have and literally this case is going to be resolved by somebody knowing something and sharing that with law enforcement to put us on the right track,” said Woodruff. “It wasn’t a lack of effort on our investigators’ part and it certainly wasn’t any lack of caring for this family. Your heart just continues to go out to them seven years later and it always will.”
Macklin’s family said he had just moved to the Indianapolis area for a new job several months before the deadly crash.
“Jonathan was on a fast-track to a lot of success in his career. He’d gone to a fabulous historically black college; he was graduating with a management degree and a guaranteed position with Verizon Wireless,” said Woodruff. “He was just at the beginning of his life as an adult. I know his family was so proud of him as we all should be.”
Instead of celebrating his successes in Indianapolis with him, Macklin’s family has spent the last seven years pushing for answers and hoping that it will be the day that someone decides to do the right thing and come forward.
“If you took his life by accident, just come forward please,” said Sliger. “Let the family know. Let his twin sister know.”
Sliger said being able to understand what happened would bring peace and a piece of healing to their family.
“It would mean to me that Jonathan — because he gave so much — loved so hard, that some innocent person who knows something about something has the same values about honesty integrity love and respect for the family and human race,” said Sliger.
Woodruff said technology has advanced significantly since the crash, and with additions like license plate reader cameras, he believes the process of solving the case would have been significantly different. Still, the lead investigator followed video of the vehicle all the way down Pendleton Pike, about as far as Arlington Avenue, before they were unable to find it further.
“With today’s technology, the likelihood that this case would have been solved, is exponentially increased,” said Woodruff.
That’s why police hope that the community will be the eyes and ears that are needed to help bring answers to Macklin’s family.
“It’s so heart wrenching that a person — I hope seven years later that they don’t have that same heart,” said Sliger, who said she doesn’t want to see the person responsible behind bars.
“I want to see you free of guilt, shame and embarrassment and restless years,” said Sliger.
“By now they have to know that their actions may have led to the cause or at least them not stopping to render aid or notify emergency services, may have led to the death of another person,” Woodruff said. “That would have to weigh on somebody’s conscience.”
For several years, Sliger said it was too difficult to bear the thought of talking about what happened. She said she has since found the strength and hopes by sharing her son’s story and keeping his memory alive, that someone with information will understand the type of forgiving person he was, and come forward.
“To keep people alive, you have to continue to talk about them,” she said. “I just got to the point where I could really talk about it.”
Both Sliger and LPD said they want to encourage people to be extra vigilant and look out for motorcyclists as the weather gets nicer and more motorcyclists are on the road.
“Drivers, this is bike season. Be careful. Watch out for the bikers,” Sliger said. “Bikers have families too.”
Since the deadly hit-and-run, family and friends have worked to honor JMac by holding memorial rides in his honor. This year, his family spent time graveside, sharing happy memories, tears and releasing balloons in his honor.
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana at (317) 262-TIPS, where you will remain anonymous.