Minneapolis Day Care Owner Appears in Court, Victim Salvador Lema Explains How He Survived

November 29, 2016 10:06 PM

Forty-two-year-old Nataliia Karia, owner of Uptown Daycare in Minneapolis, appeared in Hennepin County court Tuesday.

Bail was set at $2 million. Karia is charged with four felonies: attempted murder, assault and two counts of criminal vehicular operation.


That's for the attempted hanging of a 16-month old boy in her care on November 18, telling another parent she "did something bad,"then drove away in gold mini-van, hitting pedestrian Salvador Lema and bicyclist Jacob Carrigan. Karia also attempted to commit suicide, but was stopped by bystanders and arrested by police. 

For the first time Tuesday, Salvador Lema shared how he survived being dragged 10 blocks.  He was the most seriously injured and the only victim still in the hospital.

"It's kind of hard to talk about this,"admitted Lema. He's in Hennepin County Medical Center, in agony.  His body is burned, bones are broken, recovery is painful and remembering what happened stings even more.

"The last thing I know there was a car coming and hit me, ran me over,"Lema said. 

Lema, 37, is married and a father of four. He dropped a child off at school and was on his way to work, when chaos erupted around him in south Minneapolis.  As he went to check on another driver who'd been rear-ended, he was blindsided by the same gold mini-van, "I was trapped between the bumper and the floor underneath the car."

The van's driver, Karia, dragged Lema for blocks, the pavement below him peeled the skin off him. Not only was Lema pulled, the van actually ran over and crushed one leg.

"I was trying to think of a way I could get out and that was to keep my head forward to survive,"Lema said. 

In that moment, Lema said he thought of his family, "if I die they're going to be homeless." His hands still show the wear and tear of holding on for dear life. He's been through five skin grafts already, with more surgeries to come.  

Lema's attorney, Will Sutor, is keeping track of the criminal case against the driver and says a civil suit for negligence is likely.  

Lema says he survived by keeping his head up then....and now, "I have four people that depend on me and I want to keep fighting for them and for myself as well."

When asked what he would say to Karia, he replied, "I would thank her for letting me live and see my family, I don't have anger."

Lema had two jobs, with months of recovery ahead of him, he can't work.  His attorney set up a gofundme account to help cover medical costs and other bills. 


Beth McDonough

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