SLC Police: Small Piece Of Car Left At Deadly Hit-And-Run Leads To Arrest
Jan 24, 2019, 10:44 PM | Updated: 10:45 pm
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – A piece of a car left at the scene of a deadly hit-and-run crash led detectives to the car and suspected driver in less than 24 hours, police said Thursday.
The collision happened Tuesday night, when investigators said Tot Nguyen, 72, crossed 400 South on his bicycle and was struck by an eastbound car near Goshen St.
Justin Washam said he witnessed the immediate aftermath of the crash.
“I heard a wreck — like a car clearly being impacted — and turned to just kind of see something flying through the air,” Washam recalled. “Then I realized it was a human and the car was just accelerating down the road.”
Washam said the white car with “severe front-end body damage” had left a significant clue at the scene.
“There was actually a big piece of the grill,” Washam said. “The Nissan logo had actually broken off and was just laying on the ground over there.”
Salt Lake police detective Robert Ungricht said investigators were able to determine from the car remnant that the suspect vehicle was a Nissan Versa, model year 2014 to 2018.
Detectives then used a state database to map out where the owners of those car models lived in relation to the collision.
“I know they did tell me they started right close to the scene of registered addresses close to the scene in Salt Lake City and just kind of worked their way out,” Ungricht said.
They ended up blocks from the crash scene at a house near 830 W. Arapahoe Ave.
Ungricht said they found the damaged car belonging to Sotero Valerio, 36, parked in an alley behind the home neighboring one connected to his name.
Valerio was not there, but Ungricht said he came back to talk to officers.
“He did confess to this hit-and-run and basically stated that the reason why he fled the scene was that he got scared after he did it and was worried about getting in trouble,” Ungricht said. “This is a terrible case. We’re grateful that by the hard work of our detectives we were able to bring some closure to this case for the family of this individual that passed away as a result of this horrible act.”
Valerio was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on suspicion of felony failure to remain at an accident involving a death.
“I mean, he should have just stopped in the first place and probably would have been a lot easier on himself,” Washam said.
Washam said he was impressed by the detective work involved in the arrest.
“I’m just really happy to know that they actually caught him,” Washam said.