Merrillville tow truck driver convicted in murder

A Merrillville tow truck driver was convicted late Thursday of hitting and killing a 19-year-old teen.

Maximilliono Farias, 39, was on trial, charged with murder and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death or catastrophic injury, a Level 4 felony.

Charges allege he drove the tow truck on May 16, 2022 that struck and killed John Garner, 19. Farias was convicted on both counts.

His sentencing date is May 17.

Court records state Farias was targeting Cameron Prince, then 18, Garner’s friend as they were walking back from the mall. Prince had been involved in a relationship with Farias’ wife until a few months earlier.

Prince testified Wednesday he saw Farias driving in the tow truck’s cab seconds before impact. Farias’ wife, Dezarae, was in the passenger seat “freaking out,” he said.

Dezarae Farias, now 29, testified earlier Wednesday that she didn’t remember nearly everything that happened. Prosecutors played jail calls and read previous depositions that appeared to contradict what she said.

Farias testified Thursday, saying he never meant for the crash to happen and didn’t see them. He panicked after the impact.

Merrillville Police were called around 7 p.m. to Sheffield’s Sportsbar and Restaurant parking lot, 1515 E. 82nd Ave., for a reported crash. Garner was lying in the south parking lot.

Investigators suspected Dezarae Farias initially lied to them before she admitted the relationship with Prince. 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 Prince and swung toward Sheffield’s parking lot, she said.

She said Farias was driving between 20 to 30 mph before he hit Garner, charges allege. She believed Farias was trying to “scare” Prince.

She told police Farias blamed her that he “killed an innocent person” because of her relationship with Prince, court records show.

Farias fled the scene. He was arrested at the Pilot Travel Center gas station near Indiana 2 and Interstate 65.

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

Court filings show Garner’s family has filed a civil lawsuit against Farias and the towing company where he worked.