Two weeks in lakes country, and two fatal hit-and-run deaths.

That is unusual and unnecessary. It should also, again, be the reminder of personal safety, and how each of us play a role. More importantly, these are solvable crimes that demand all of our vigilance.

The two cases have broad strokes in common, but the young victims and the circumstances are unique.

Michael Joe Tibbetts, 27, of Ogema was riding a Polaris Ranger utility vehicle June 24 in Maple Grove Township when he was struck by a car. The driver of the car fled the scene; Tibbetts died the next day at Sanford Medical Center in Fargo.

Tyler Wohlers, 21, from Wahpeton, N.D., was walking with two other men on Highway 78 in Otter Tail County around 1 a.m. July 6 when he was tripped and fell. He was struck by a car and killed. The driver kept going.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

An arrest has been made in the Tibbetts' case but, as of this writing, the Minnesota State Patrol is still looking for the driver of a smaller sedan, white or silver in color -- which would have some front-end damage -- suspected in Wohlers' death.

It is shocking to think that anyone could hit another person with their car and then make the terrible decision: To drive away, becoming criminals instantly.

Without knowing the precise details in these two incidents, it is hard not to wonder if lives could have been saved had the victims been offered immediate help.

Rather than parse the details of distracted or impaired driving, and imploring our neighbors to be mindful of safety, today we make a case to a different audience: To those of us who might know something to help solve the Wohlers case.

Hit-and-runs generally are not premeditated crimes. They are accidents that become something worse. The drivers who flee don't have a plan to stay quiet or to dampen suspicion. They will compound their crime with more mistakes.

Friends of these drivers might notice them acting nervously. Family members might wonder why the car is damaged -- or why the car is not being used at all.

They might remember a party or a visit on the night, and what time their buddy left to go home. They might have added a few things together.

These are solvable crimes, with all of our vigilance.

A suspect gives Tibbetts' loved ones something to cling to, some sense that there might be answers down the road.

For more than two weeks now, Tyler Wohlers' family and friends have not had that same comfort. The suspect is out there.

If you are reading this: Do you know something that could help? The State Patrol is urging anyone with information about the vehicle or the driver to call 651-201-7100 .