ST. PAUL (AP) -- A family is mourning the loss of a 5-year-old girl who was killed when a driver speeding through her neighborhood lost control and slammed into the porch of her home.
Shannon Dennis was sitting on the porch with a neighbor -- writing and drawing on a sketch pad -- when the car struck Saturday night. She was pinned underneath a front tire and died instantly. The neighbor, Lannea Johnson, 15, who sometimes babysat for Shannon, was in fair condition at Regions Hospital.
"We called her 'Little Mama' because she would ask me 'Mama, how did you get so big?' and so I would say I was 'Big Mama' and she was 'Little Mama,"' Kathy Dennis said Sunday, vacillating between laughter at the memories and shock of losing her daughter.
A 19-year-old St. Paul man was arrested as he tried to climb out of the car and flee the scene. He was being held pending charges.
On Sunday, yellow crime-scene tape cordoned off part of the yard -- keeping gawkers at a distance. Neighbors gathered to place memorials to the girl at the home and recounted what they had seen the night before.
A police officer first noticed a car speeding through the neighborhood. Police said the driver had been arguing with someone in the area and may have been trying to drive over that person.
Neighbors said they believe the driver and another man were feuding about a woman, and that the vehicle made several U-turns in front of the Dennis residence. The driven then struck a cyclist, perhaps inadvertently, and then lost control.
Kathy Dennis said she was standing on the porch as the car struck the kids and could only see that Lannea was injured. She didn't initially see her daughter.
"Then I went around and saw my baby was there -- up under the car," Dennis said, choking back tears. "I thought I saw her breathing, but I knew, I just really knew she was gone."
Shannon died at a time when Dennis is trying to look after her 14-year-old son, who was recently diagnosed with cancer and has been hospitalized while undergoing chemotherapy.
Dennis broke down as she contemplated whether God would have given her more than she can handle.
Mustering a weary smile, she said, "I definitely have a full plate right now."
The Dennis Family Fund has been set up to help defray funeral costs and related expenses. Donations can be sent to University National Bank, 200 University Ave., St. Paul, MN, 55103.
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