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30 years later, Minn. hit-and-run driver sends $1,000 to police to give to victim

SOUTH ST. PAUL, Minn.—Bill Messerich has seen a lot of things over his police career, but nothing like what was mailed to him this month.

Messerich, South St. Paul's police chief, said he opened an envelope to find 10 crisp $100 bills "staring at me in the face."

"I was quite shocked," he said this week. "It's not something you see everyday."

Then he read a letter, which was equally surprising, Messerich said. The writer apologized for a property damage hit-and-run crash more than 30 years old, asked for forgiveness and wondered whether police could track down the victim and give him or her the enclosed cash.

The unsigned letter was in an envelope with no return address, postmarked Nov. 3 in St. Paul.

The anonymous sender explained that on a night back in 1985 or 1986 "I hit a parked car on the 1050 block of Dwayne Ave. in So. St. Paul and did not stop to leave my information" or check to see how much damage was done.

The sender asked Messerich to check police records and "if you can locate the owner please give them the $1,000.00 which I have enclosed." If not, donate the cash to a police charity, the sender instructed.

"I am sorry for any inconvenience that I have caused and I ask for your forgiveness," the letter ends.

Because records do not go back that far, Messerich said, the money was deposited into the police department's general donation account and will be used to purchase new equipment or technology.

Messerich said the letter was so hard to fathom that he joked that it was an "integrity test."

"But I guess this was just weighing on this person's conscience for over 30 years," he said, "and they came to a certain point in their life where they wanted to try to make things right if they could."

City Administrator Steve King said he hasn't seen a donation like it in his 35 years of city government.

"It's a pleasant surprise," he said. "It's nice to be the recipient, so there's that part of it. But it's also good to see there's redemption after all those years."

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