Witnesses: Argument over gas money sparked deadly hit-and-run

TACOMA, Wash. - Two friends arguing in the street over gas money led to a deadly hit-and-run crash Friday night in Tacoma, say witnesses who watched in horror as one of the women got into her SUV and ran over the other one.

The eyewitnesses say there's no way it was an accident.

The driver later turned herself in - and now police have booked her into jail for investigation of first-degree murder.

KOMO News spoke with several witnesses who believe the hit-and-run was intentional. They say the driver waited until her friend stepped off the curb before she gunned her engine.

"What drew my attention was the argument out in the street," says one witness, Mike Baugh.

The shouting match outside was enough to get Baugh to call 911.

Rhianda Dillon heard the commotion, too - and stepped out to see a few women arguing near an SUV. The argument was over gas money - and Dillon says at least one woman seemed drunk.

"The drunk lady, the mother punched the driver in the face," Dillon says.

Dillon says the woman who threw the punch then headed down the street on foot. The driver she hit followed in an SUV.

"It moved over into the oncoming lane and was pacing her, like they were talking back and forth," Baugh says.

The shouting continued down South 43rd Street. But when the woman stepped into the intersection at South J Street, witnesses say the SUV ran her down.

"Whoever's driving the SUV hits the gas, cranks the wheel hard left, and I watch this lady get hit," Baugh says.

Another neighbor, Bob Johnson, said, "I heard like a thunk, almost like a watermelon or something smashing, and then squealing of the tires."

The crash killed the woman there in the street. The Pierce County Medical Examiner later identified her as 45-year-old Michelle Johnson of Burien.

"It was just total shock to come out there and see it," said Bob Johnson, who is no relation to the victim.

Neighbors watched the SUV speed away - but police say the driver turned herself in a short time later. She was identified as Denise Larkins, 33, and booked into Pierce County Jail on suspicion of premeditated murder.

Detectives say the driver was friends with the woman she's now accused of killing.

"It did not look like an accident," Baugh says.

Records show the victim has an extensive criminal history that includes assault, drugs and prostitution.

The driver has a prior arrest for theft and remains in jail. She is scheduled to appear in court on Monday.