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Fatal hit-and-run probe reveals new information

Body of hit-and-run victim found along Peabody Road

CHP officers and the Solano County Sheriff-Coroners investigate the scene of a fatal hit-and-run Wednesday morning in Fairfield. The body of the victim was found a little ways up from Chuck Hammond Drive in a ditch along Peabody Road. (Conner Jay/Daily Republic)

By
From page A1 | December 21, 2012 | 10 Comments

FAIRFIELD — Details about the fatal hit-and-run accident on Peabody Road earlier this month are starting to surface, but many questions remain.

The investigation has been active since the Dec. 4 incident and involves three law enforcement agencies in two cities.

No case has been filed with the District Attorney’s Office, but at least one search warrant was reviewed by that office Thursday, according to Deputy District Attorney Mary Nguyen.

At the time of the accident, the California Highway Patrol released little information other than that a man was struck and killed late Dec. 4 while walking along Peabody Road. His body was found early Dec. 5. A 23-year-old was taken into custody in Vacaville later that day.

After talking to investigators and reviewing reports, the Daily Republic has learned more of what happened.

Man down

The body of 28-year-old Moses Sala sat undetected on the side of the road while Fairfield police worked what it thought was a simple vehicle accident.

For nearly nine hours, Sala’s body was in the weeds and brush along Peabody Road in the rural open space between Fairfield and Vacaville.

During that time, Fairfield police responded just before midnight to a call of a disabled vehicle and found a damaged 2012 Chevy truck. The suspected driver, Alex Perez Jr., was not at the scene, according to reports. According to a Fairfield police accident report, the OnStar operator was told by the driver he was not injured, but further communication was cut off.

Fairfield officers then contacted Vacaville police, who paid a visit to the truck’s owner, later identified as the uncle of Perez. Perez reportedly told the Vacaville officer he had hit something, but he didn’t know what it was, said CHP Officer Darren Carrington.

Officers back at the scene searched the area and found nothing in the rain and darkness. Sala’s body was thrown during impact and ended up 400 to 500 feet from where the truck came to rest, Carrington said. A press release at the time reported his body was 30 feet from the road.

Lt. Greg Hurlbut with Fairfield police said officers searched the area and the best guess was that an animal was hit, given the remote area where pedestrians are rarely seen.

“The vehicle had damage. They looked around and didn’t see another vehicle. They made some efforts, but couldn’t figure out what was hit,” Hurlbut said. “Never for a moment did they think he could have hit a person.”

At some point, a member of the family returned and the vehicle was towed to the house of Perez’s uncle, Carrington said.

Hurlbut said he didn’t want to second-guess the officers at the scene, but did question the towing of the vehicle to the home.

“I wouldn’t say that’s the recommended action,” Hurlbut said. “I would hope we would be a little more thorough in the future.”

The scene was soon cleared and Sala’s body remained.

Morning after

Sala was first seen later that morning by a passing motorist who reported a body in the brush next to the road. He was pronounced dead at 8:46 a.m. and the CHP was notified shortly afterward, as they are the lead agency for areas not covered by local police.

It took investigators about two hours before they were at the house where the vehicle had been towed. Perez was arrested. CHP Sgt. Jeff Page said Perez was given a test for his blood alcohol level at the time of his arrest, but could not confirm if one was done during the initial contact with Vacaville police.

Calls Thursday to the Vacaville officer in charge on Dec. 5 were not returned.

It will take two weeks for an autopsy report, according to the Solano County Coroner’s Office. That report may shed some light on the exact cause and time of death.

Hurlbut said it was “more than likely” that Sala was killed on impact.

Family first

It was an unusual set of circumstances that put Sala on Peabody Road that night.

Earlier in the evening of Dec. 4, he was visiting family in Vacaville. On the way home to Fairfield, he was involved in a car accident on Interstate 80. With his vehicle damaged, he was given a ride to his home in a neighborhood near where he was killed.

His mother, Charmaine Killsright, said Sala soon realized he had his father’s medication. His dad is paralyzed and needed medication at certain times. With no vehicle, Sala set off on foot to deliver the meds to Vacaville, she said.

“He takes care of his dad. This is what kind of caregiver he is. We think it started drizzling and he turned around,” Killsright said. “He used to run on that road. It wasn’t like he didn’t know that road.”

Sala was a father of a 7-year-old son, with a daughter on the way to be born in March. He recently received a criminal justice degree and was weighing his options between corrections, law enforcement and possibly the military, Killsright said.

“He had so many options ahead of him,” she said. “There’s never going to be another Moses in this world. It’s hard to fathom my son is never going to come through the door and ask, ‘What’s for dinner.’ ”

Killswright said she wants to know why the driver left the scene and how he didn’t know what he hit.

“There’s no way he hit my son and didn’t know it. He knew who he hit. His report doesn’t make any sense,” she said. “Why didn’t he stay with the vehicle? Only he knows. My son can’t say anything.”

Reach Danny Bernardini at 427-6935 or dbernardini@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/dbernardinidr.

Danny Bernardini

Danny Bernardini

Danny is a newspaper man born and raised in Vacaville. He attended Chico State University and has written for the Enterprise Record and the Reporter. Covers the City of Fairfield, education and crime. A's, Warriors and Saints fan. Listener of vinyl, frequent visitor to the East Bay. Registered "decline to state" voter. Loves a good steak.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 10 comments

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  • Cheyenne SalaDecember 21, 2012 - 6:27 am

    Thank you Danny for shedding some more light about my brother Moses. It means so much to me and my family. Whatever the case maybe this guy Alex Perez just made the police look absolutely stupid. How could you not know what you hit??? Why would you leave the scene?? Why would you leave your car?? All of these questions are coming out because we as a family want answers.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • alanDecember 22, 2012 - 5:19 am

    You really hit the mark with your comments and I want to add my condolences to the family and my thanks to Danny. Here are my questions: If you have a valid license, a legally registered vehicle and you are sober, what would your actions be if you hit something along a road on a dark, rainy night? Leave the scene or stop and call the authorities? If you thought you had hit an animal which caused so much damage that your vehicle required a tow, would you leave the scene or try to get a police report to help with the insurance paperwork? Would you not try to determine if the animal was dead or needed assistance? If you were a policeman investigating why someone left their crashed vehicle in the middle of Peabody Road, late at night, and that person indicated he had hit anything and left the scene, would you require that person to submit to an alcohol test at that point, or just say, "ok, thanks for the info, have a nice night"? It appears that VVPD chose the latter. Based on what has been reported, it appears this "investigation", using the term lightly, was botched by the Fairfield PD, Vacaville PD and the CHP. No one likes working in the rain at night, but this is unacceptable. I don't mean to sound callous, but I sincerely hope the autopsy report indicates Mr. Sala was killed on impact. Every other scenario would mean suffering along the road while Mr. Perez and the investigating police went on with their lives. I hope justice is served for the family's sake, but it does appear Mr. Perez made all police involved look stupid.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Cheyenne SalaDecember 22, 2012 - 4:16 pm

    Thank you so much. We're hoping he was killed on impact because that is what breaks our families heart til this very day, knowing he was left laying in the rain all night .

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • GemmaDecember 21, 2012 - 8:49 am

    I'll NEVER understand how this case could be so bungled, so quickly.So a passing motorist could see 400-500 FEET OFF THE ROADWAY,WHILE DRIVING, BUT THE CHP ON FOOT couldn't locate anything???? I drive that road 4 times a day, and I can't see down the embankment 400-500 ft. Honestly, I read some kind of dispatch form when this happened, I read NOTHING about a motorist seeing the body,BUT I did read where dispatch informed officers at the scene that there was a Traffic Collision there the night before, and they would forward the incident report. It was AFTER that info that "the motorist supposedly saw the body!" I think the CHP does NOT want to admit that that poor man was outside in the rain all night, while they cleared the scene and went home.It's obvious they did NOT do a thorough search. It shouldn't matter if it was rain,snow,hail or sleet, they should have done a FULL investigation AT THE SCENE! At the very least, Perez left the scene of an accident. WHY wasn't he arrested during the night,when CHP went to the accident site, and he was NOT THERE?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • just a readerDecember 21, 2012 - 9:34 am

    Gemma, did you read the article? Moses was found 30 feet from the road, not 400 to 500 feet. The truck stopped 400 to 500 feet from where Moses was hit. That's why officers didn't see his body, they were looking 400 to 500 feet away from him. At night and in the rain. There is little light on that section of Peabody at night. I don't see any bungling based on the police report. Only the part about the driver not knowing what he hit. Pretty hard to not know you hit a human being. Towing the vehicle when there was no reason to not clear the road isn't a mystery either. At the time, Moses' body was 500 feet away from where the investigation was taking place. You work with what you have at the time.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • BlackfootDecember 21, 2012 - 2:58 pm

    Sorry to say but I disagree with the first part of your comment and this is why, they should have been searching in both directions not just one and on both sides of the road. Sounds like a DWI to me?? My heart and soul goes out to his entire family.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • TomDecember 21, 2012 - 12:58 pm

    Hurlbut has never been able to take responsibility for anything. He has never been able to investigate his way out of a paper bag. Our Lt. is a county wide joke.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Gold Ridge ResidentDecember 21, 2012 - 2:48 pm

    People like me read these stories sometimes and forget that this is real life. We assume that both parties involved were up to no good. This is not the case. Devastating story for the victim and family. So sad that something like this happened to someone who has a family who loves him so much. My family will be thinking about the victim and the victims family during the holidays.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • RGTDecember 21, 2012 - 3:16 pm

    @tom-He had a good teacher in his old man. Dude was outrageously off the hook and terrorized city personnel.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • MvpDecember 21, 2012 - 7:52 pm

    I knew Moe. He was hella outgoing an was a great father to his son. I didn't kno him all that well but I use to catch up wit him at the senior apartments where his father resides. He was always helpin folks with their groceries, and was an all around good guy. He meant no harm to anyone. Last convo I had wit him he told me he waz expectin a baby girl in March an he was very excited. Hopefully justice will be served for him an his families pain. Rip Moe u are missed my brotha

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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