Attorney: Teen driving when pedestrian killed
Boy returned to scene of crash ‘within a very few minutes.’
Last updated 9/28/2021 at 4:32pm
CLOVIS — A 16-year-old boy was driving the pickup involved in a pedestrian fatal on Aug. 29, the boy’s attorney said Monday.
Clovis police said they are still investigating the crash that took the life of Martha Castillo as she walked across Thornton Street that night. Attorney Dan Lindsey said his client never saw what he hit and that he returned to the scene “within a very few minutes.”
Lindsey said his client stopped his 2000 Ford Ranger moments after the collision, inspected the pickup to see if he could determine what happened, then returned to the scene of the accident where police told him to leave the area.
The boy said an ambulance and a police officer were on the scene when he returned. “‘I pulled up to the officer, he came to my window, and before I said anything he said, ‘What are you doing here? I could give you 10 tickets, get out of here now,’” Lindsey said the teen told him of the exchange.
“He was scared and he went home,” Lindsey said. “He thought he might have hit an animal. He wasn’t sure what he hit. This all happened within a very few minutes.”
Police Chief Doug Ford confirmed Monday that the boy did return to the scene and talked briefly with the officer. “But he didn’t tell (the officer) ‘I am part of this,’” Ford said.
No charges have been filed in connection with the death, which occurred about 8:45 p.m. Aug. 29 in the 2900 block of Thornton Street.
Witnesses said they saw the pickup leave the scene after Castillo, 68, was hit. She died at the scene.
Lindsey said his client went home, waited for his father to come home, then his father called police to report everything his son told him.
“Police knew within an hour that my client may have been involved in this terrible accident,” Lindsey said. “That’s how they identified the driver and the vehicle.”
Two days after the incident, police issued a news release saying the vehicle and driver involved in the incident had been identified but provided no details. They have since come under criticism, from the victim’s family and from the district attorney’s office, for failing to provide additional information.
District Attorney Andrea Reeb said she has been asking Ford for information about the case since her office ultimately “will make the final decision” on whether criminal charges will be filed. But she said Ford has told her “he will turn it over when the (investigation) is complete and it’s not mine until then.”
Reeb said she contacted Clovis city officials on Monday asking they encourage Ford to provide her with information.
“I’m not in charge of Doug Ford,” Reeb said Monday. “This family needs to get some answers. They deserve some answers. What’s the holdup?”
Brenda Lindebak, 52, one of Castillo’s nieces, said family members have repeatedly asked police for updates on the investigation and “they say you need to talk to so and so and we do and they say ‘Not me, you need to talk to so and so …’
“I think as a family we have a right to know what’s happening. If they were to say, ‘We’re waiting on forensics’ or what exactly they’re doing, that would help. But just ‘We’re still investigating’ ... that’s not enough for us right now.”
Lindsey said he decided Monday to go public with information about the case because, “I know the Castillo family. They are fantastic people. … These folks deserve some answers.”
Ford said Monday police are “trying to find out all the issues and problems and reasons why this took place.
“We’re working right now trying to finish the investigation, putting a case together. These investigations do not happen overnight. They take time,” he said. “Our team is doing their due diligence and making sure a proper investigation is being completed.”
He said he expects the investigation to be completed soon, but that each case is different.
“Some investigations, we have all the information right away. Some don’t. Every incident is different,” Ford said.
Lindsey said the 16-year-old, who is licensed to drive, was with his girlfriend when the accident happened.
“He picked her up at her house; they were driving on Thornton and then hit something. He didn’t know what it was, thought it could have been an animal. He saw no human being. It was on the right-hand (passenger) side of the vehicle. The girlfriend said she saw a brown blur,” Lindsey said.
“He turned on the next street, which I think was Manana,” the attorney continued. “He and his girlfriend got out, got on their knees, looked under the vehicle … noticed a headlight was kind of sticking out to the right. He hit it a couple of times to point it straight again. They talked about it. He thought it was an animal, but wasn’t sure. They said, ‘Let’s go back.’”
“We have totally cooperated with police,” Lindsey said. “We will continue to cooperate.”
Lindebak said family members don’t want to be critical of police. “It’s just the situation,” she said in a telephone interview from her home in Spokane, Wash. “We need to be the voice for my aunt.”
Lindebak, who grew up in Clovis, said family members believe Castillo was walking the short distance from her home on Smith Avenue to her son’s house just off Thornton when the crash occurred.
She described her aunt as “very full of life, energetic … I just always remember her as being a happy person.
“Her children and grandchildren were probably the biggest part of her life. That’s what she basically lived for were her kids and grandkids.”
Family members said Castillo had eight children, 23 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.