Jury selection starts for Merrillville tow truck driver on trial for fatally hitting 19-year-old pedestrian

Jury selection began Monday for a Merrillville tow driver on trial for fatally mowing down a 19-year-old pedestrian walking near a restaurant in May 2022.

Court documents state Maximilliono Farias, now 39, was targeting victim John Garner IV’s friend, who had been in a relationship with Farias’ ex-wife.

Farias is charged with murder and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death or catastrophic injury, a level 4 felony. He has pleaded not guilty.

The woman told police she had been involved with the friend in November 2021 and Farias had “not been able to get over it,” documents state.

Merrillville police were called around 7 p.m. May 16, 2022 to Sheffield’s Restaurant & Sports Bar, 1515 E. 82nd Ave., for a reported crash.

Garner was lying in the south parking lot. Paramedics tried to save him before he was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The friend told police they were walking back from the mall, cutting through the restaurant’s parking lot when Farias’ red and black tow truck appeared. The friend told police he managed to jump out of the way, but Garner was run over, according to charging documents.

He “used to date” the woman in the truck and he “had issues” with Farias, documents state.

Another officer said Farias approached him once, asking how he could tow a car off private property, alleging a man was having a relationship with a woman he knew and giving her drugs, according to court documents. Farias told the officer he smashed the man’s car windows.

“I’m going to kill them,” the officer reported Farias said, according to court documents.

Investigators suspected the woman with Farias initially lied to them, before she admitted the relationship with the other man. She lied to police, because she was “scared of losing” Farias, she told police, according to court records.

She and Farias had an abusive relationship in the past, and he punched her in the face in a Walmart parking lot earlier that day, she told police.

They were headed to Jimmy John’s near Sheffield’s when Farias recognized the other man and swung toward the Sheffield’s parking lot, she said.

The woman said Farias was driving between 20 to 30 mph before he hit Garner, charges allege. She believed Farias was trying to “scare” Garner’s friend.

The woman told police Farias blamed her that he “killed an innocent person” because of her relationship with the friend, court records show.

Farias fled the scene. He was spotted by an Indiana State trooper by U.S. 2 and Clay Street.

He was arrested at the Pilot Travel Center gas station near U.S. 2 and Interstate 65, then transported to the Lake County Jail.

The hit-and-run was caught on security video, police wrote.

Garner was a YouTube creator using his stage name, Fhantxm, who loved making music, according to an online fundraiser for his funeral.

He was a “talented and positive person and only wanted to try and change the world for the better,” a relative wrote.

The trial is before Judge Gina Jones. Deputy Prosecutors Maureen Koonce and Cole Galloway are assigned. Defense lawyer John Maksimovich is representing Farias.