KANSAS CITY, Mo — A 22-year-old who is well known to police on both sides of the state line is in custody after police say he hit and killed an innocent woman while running away from a shooting.
Friends said Mari McElyea was always trying to help people and loved working with children. Her death is hitting friends and family hard, especially because of the way she died and who allegedly killed her.
“I miss her. I can’t even believe she’s gone,” her best friend Marilyn Evans said.
A knock on the door by two Independence police officers is not how Evans thought her friendship with McElyea would end.
“You know, they said there’s no easy way to tell you this. There was a car accident, and Mari didn’t make it,” Evans said.
On Wednesday, McElyea was on her way home from work at Sugar Creek Elementary School when she was hit by a car speeding through a red light at 24 Highway and Sterling Avenue in Independence.
“Maybe a little bit worse because it was someone who was doing bad things,” Evans’ husband Jonathan Hutchins said of the man accused of killing McElyea.
Sipple has a long rap sheet, including a drive-by shooting in KCK that prompted a call to police and ended in the death of Capt. Dave Melton. Sipple spent about two years in prison for his role in that incident, and police said Sipple is up to his old antics.
Prosecutors said Sipple shot at his ex-girlfriend at their Independence home and then took off. He was allegedly running from that incident when he hit and killed McElyea.
“If it had just been an accident, then it would be just something random. But this was worse than that,” Hutchins said.
Evans said the two were more like sisters than friends, who went fox hunting, camping every summer, and were members of SCA, a historic recreation group.
The two expected to be friends for a lifetime. Mari even gave Marilyn the Blue Zones Diet cookbook so they could live to be 100.
“And I was pouring through it. We were figuring out how we were going to cook all these things,” Evans said. “And we had a passion for Indian food. We both love Indian food, and I don’t think I’ll eat Indian food again without getting kind of messed up about it.”
McElyea was an accomplished equestrian who taught riding lessons to children and adults, including Evans and her husband. They said her passion for animals, including horses and cats, and her love of children will be her legacy.
“Going through her things, I’m finding so many notes and cards from people thanking her and wishing her well,” Hutchins said. “She appreciated them I guess.”
Sipple has been charged with second-degree murder, unlawful use of a weapon and armed criminal action.
FOX4 spoke to Sipple’s extended family who said the police have the story all wrong, but they would not speak on record to tell their story.