Lack of charges in fatal hit-and-run angers Lombard mom

By Kevin Beese Staff Writer

A poster remembering Paige Donahue was part of a June 8 vigil for her in Wheaton. Donahue died in a 2023 hit-and-run car accident in Wheaton. (Provided photos)

Paige Donahue was not a favorite of carnival crews. 

“If you wanted something out of the claw machine, she would get it out. Carnival workers hated her guts,” said her mother, Traci Palucci. “She would win teddy bears, goldfish. Nothing would stop here.” 

Palucci also remembers the unflappable spirit of her daughter, a resident of Canticle Place Apartments in Wheaton. 

“She went to the woman across the hall and asked, ‘Do you want to do beads with me?’ The woman said, ‘I’d like you to know I have AIDS.’ Paige said, ‘I’d like you to know that I have epilepsy,’” Palucci said. “She had no judgment.”  

Palucci tries to remember special moments and vignettes of her daughter instead of her horrific death, a pedestrian struck in a hit-and-run accident in January 2023 on Roosevelt Road near Crest Street in Wheaton. 

A 16-month investigation concluded in May with Wheaton detectives using electronic search warrants and advanced analysis of physical evidence left at the scene to identify the alleged vehicle and driver, Tarra Fiedler of Batavia.  

The DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office did not approve criminal charges in the case and only approved issuing Fiedler with a citation for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident, a decision that does not sit well with Palucci and her family. 

‘My daughter deserves justice,” Palucci said. “Her life deserved more than a citation.” 

She said fibers of her daughter’s coat were found under the alleged driver’s vehicle 16 months after the accident. 

Palucci said she and her husband were happy for about three minutes when meeting with DuPage

Traci Palucci (left) and her daughter, Paige

County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin, hearing that her daughter’s case had been solved. Then Berlin told them that charges would not be forthcoming because Fiedler said she did not know she hit a person when the accident occurred. 

“If you believe her story, you’re Alice in Wonderland or Snow White,” Palucci said. 

The Lombard mom cannot fathom how someone could hit a person and not know it. 

“Paige was a 210-pound woman. That’s more a large deer,” Palucci said. “She was wearing bright pink clothing. How can a driver turn off Community Drive and in less than a mile run our daughter over? 

“We asked them to re-create the accident. We want to know how she could not see a 210-pound woman and hit her in less than a mile. What was she doing that she was not able to see her?” 

Palucci said although her daughter was epileptic, there is no evidence that her disease played any role in the accident. 

Candles remember the life of Paige Donahue.

She said Paige had an implant in her chest and there is no indication that Paige had any type of medical incident at the time of the accident. 

“If she had a seizure, she would not be face down on the road,” Palucci said. “Paige had an aura. She knew when she was about to have a seizure. She could have made it to the other side of the road.” 

Palucci said her family could have understood the accident, if the alleged driver would have acted properly. 

“We could have forgiven her, if would have stayed with Paige and gotten help,” Palucci said. “To know that Paige was on the street for eight minutes and bled out is terrible.” 

Palucci is hoping that the Illinois Attorney General’s’ Office or federal law enforcement will look at the case. 

“We treat criminals better than Paige,” she said. “Her constitutional rights should be at the same level as the accused. I don’t feel that that is the case.” 

Palucci said she does not feel that the State’s Attorney’s Office is doing what’s right for the victim in this case. 

“They need to look at this case without blinders on,” she said. “My daughter should have more rights than anyone. She’s dead.” 

Palucci said she feels like the Batavia driver is getting away with killing her daughter. 

The Lombard mom said she will be a presence at Fiedler’s case when it is in court at 1 p.m. Friday, June 21. 

“I know we can’t get our daughter back, but I never want any family to go through what we went through,” Palucci said. “No one should ever have to deal with something like this.” 

The Lombard mom said the way the case has played out, it would have been better for her family if the incident remained unsolved. 

“I wish she would have never gotten caught,” Palucci said. “At least then, we could think our child would get justice someday. That would have been better than someone getting a citation. 

“That is a slap in the face to our daughter, our poor daughter, and it is a slap in the face to the justice system. With this decision, no pedestrian is safe. The State’s Attorney’s Office did not look at any other cases. We didn’t ask for any special favors be done for us.” 

Palucci said she got the sense that State’s Attorney Berlin doesn’t want to bring criminal charges in the case because it might not end in a conviction. 

“He doesn’t want to lose a case. It would make him look bad,” she said. 

Palucci said she has lost faith in the State’s Attorney’s Office. 

“We are not ignorant,” Palucci said. “The whole point of this is we know certain officials are not being held accountable and these are people we voted into office.” 

Palucci said she was also shocked when she saw that someone started a gofundme page for Tarra Fiedler’s defense. 

“I could not believe it,” she said. 

While in pursuit of justice for daughter, Palucci will remember the good time she spent with Paige, an artist, who was 31 at the time of her death. Her art hangs in Rush Hospital and a Downers Grove theater. 

“‘She has such a kind spirit,’ people would say,” Palucci remembers, “and I would say, ‘but don’t make her mad.’ She could be a pain, but she was our pain.”