Investigators said a hit-and-run driver confessed to accidentally striking and killing a teenager on Interstate 88, but said she was in a “panic” at the time.
Master Sgt. Chris Endress testified during a preliminary hearing for Maria Romero in Rock Island on Tuesday, September 16, 2014.
Emilio Perez, 17, was struck and killed near Joslin in March 2014. Romero was arrested after an anonymous Crime Stoppers tip in August.
Police testified witnesses had seen Perez walking on the shoulder of the road, but said for the first time that he was in the middle of the highway when he was hit by the truck driven by Romero.
“She described it as she thought it was a person, but couldn’t believe it was a person, out in the middle of nowhere on the interstate. She described the windshield had exploded, and glass all over her, in a state of panic,” Endress said.
Romero told police she was at the wheel and her husband was a front-seat passenger. They were headed from their home in Rockford to gamble at the Isle of Capri Casino in Bettendorf, Iowa.
Endress testfied the couple, at one point, turned the truck around, but they never stopped or reported the accident.
“As they approached the crash scene, they say they saw other motorists and getting first aid to Emilio and could see an ambulance. At that point, they decided to leave,” Endress said.
Romero was charged with two felonies in connection with leaving the scene and failing to report a deadly accident.
Emilio’s father, Al Perez, attended the hearing with his wife Lauren. He said even if Romero, who is in this country illegally, was afraid to stop at the time, “it’s about the right thing to do.”
Romero had a court-appointed attorney and interpreter. She pleaded not guilty at Tuesday’s hearing.
Romero remained in the Rock Island County Jail on $250,000 bond.