Prosecutors show video of Merrillville tow truck driver fatally hitting man, 19

Prosecutors played a security video Tuesday that appeared from a distance to show a tow truck running down one of two friends walking near Sheffield’s Sportsbar and Restaurant in Merrillville.

Maximilliono Farias, 39, of Merrillville, 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. Defense lawyer John Maksimovich said Tuesday he didn’t believe the evidence added up to murder.

Court documents state Farias was targeting 19-year-old victim John Garner IV’s friend on May 16, 2022, who had been in a relationship with Farias’ ex-wife.

On the stand, Merrillville Police Commander Josh Miskus, the case’s detective, said Farias swung around and hit Garner about a minute and a half after spotting the pair.

Earlier, witness Gregory Holley said he saw the crash from a nearby hotel room. The driver “never tried to stop.” He went down to the scene.

Garner was “not moving” and obviously badly injured, Holley said.

Merrillville police were called around 7 p.m. to the restaurant’s parking lot, 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 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.

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