Charges could be upgraded in deadly hit and run

December 17, 2008 3:35:52 PM PST
The parents of a Cy-Fair girl killed by a convicted drunk driver are speaking out as we learn the suspect may face murder charges. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Nicole 'Lilly' Lalime was about to head home after getting off her school bus in northwest Houston Tuesday when she was struck by a suspected drunk driver. A day later, her parents are talking about the man accused of killing their little girl and prosecutors are talking about the charges John Winne might face. ________________________________________
A fund has been created at the Cy-Fair Federal Credit Union in memory of Nicole Lalime to help the family with funeral expenses. Information on the fund
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On Wednesday, classmates remembered a friend and extended comfort to two grieving parents, who themselves endured the pain that no parents should endure.

"Knowing that he took our special little girl," began William Lalime, Nicole's father, before he was overcome with grief.

Nicole, 13, was the pride of the school, known as much for her artistic talent as for her compassion and humor.

"She always made me happy no matter what," said classmate Julie Banks. "If I cried, she'd yell at me for crying and told me to laugh."

Lalime, an eighth-grader this year at Bleyl Middle School, was killed Tuesday. Police say she had just gotten off the school bus feet away from her home when Winne, 30, ran a stop sign, striking a school bus and then her.

Authorities say Winne fled the scene and was later caught four miles away after he drove his car into a homeowner's yard. Authorities believe he was drunk at the time.

"This has got to stop and people have to understand that drunk driving can't be tolerated," said Valoree Lalime, Nicole's mother. "We just can't tolerate it."

Winne is being held on intoxication manslaughter charges, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. But the DA's office says based on the previous DWI and the age of the victim, they're looking to upgrade the charges to felony murder.

"Juries for the citizens of the county have spoken loud and clear that for habitual drunk drivers or people who kill children like this, they want tough sentences," said Assistant Harris County District Attorney Warren Diepraam.

For Lalime's parents, they're looking for the maximum penalty, too, not only for their daughter, but for other children as well.

"How many children have to die. This could have been anybody's child," said Valoree Lalime. "This is our child this time, but this could be somebody else's child."

If the suspect is charged with felony murder, he could face up to life in prison, but those charges have not been filed at this time.

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