Suspect hit Joshie, fled accident scene

Sandra Arias

Sandra Arias admitted to police that she accidentally hit Joshua Valdez with her car near a Morgan Hill intersection last month, and that she drank alcohol before driving that night, according to court records.

Arias, 28 of Morgan Hill, initially told police that she did not take the Butterfield Boulevard route home from a visit with friends, which would have put her in the intersection at the time Valdez was critically injured, according to a police report of an interview conducted with officers at the Morgan Hill police station.

However, “after a long pause” when Sgt. Troy Hoefling told her that surveillance video footage from a business near the intersection of Butterfield Boulevard and San Pedro Avenue showed her car traveling on Butterfield, Arias folded and admitted she hit Valdez, 22, of Morgan Hill.

Arias, who works at Williams Dental Lab in Gilroy, is charged with felony hit-and-run causing injury, and will appear for her arraignment at South County Courthouse Friday, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office.

Police found Valdez, a 2008 graduate of Gilroy High School, lying unconscious on the sidewalk, on the east side of Butterfield Boulevard just north of San Pedro Avenue about 1 a.m. on June 16. He was transported to San Jose Regional Medical Center, with a closed head injury, several broken bones, road rash and internal bruises.

He remains in the hospital, still mostly unconscious, but his friends report that Valdez has been cleared by his doctor to be moved out of the intensive care unit, though he will remain in the trauma unit for the foreseeable future.

On the night of the accident, Arias had been visiting two friends at a home where one of them was house sitting south of Butterfield and San Pedro, according to the police reports. The friends watched a movie and shared a bottle of wine, and Arias left to go to her home off Butterfield Boulevard about midnight.

She told police that she did not feel intoxicated, was not under the influence of medication or drugs and was wearing her glasses when she drove home.

She also said when she returned home at midnight June 16, she took Monterey Road north to her home, and not Butterfield Boulevard, according to police.

However, under further questioning she admitted that she drove toward home on Butterfield Boulevard and hit Valdez. As she approached the traffic light at the intersection of San Pedro Avenue, she was not speeding and the light was green, she told police.

She reached over the center console to manipulate the controls on her iPod, and when she looked up she saw Valdez crossing the street on foot, “directly in front of her vehicle,” according to the police report. The pedestrian was about a car’s length away when Arias saw him.

“I hit him,” Arias said in the police interview, which was recorded by audio and video. The impact caused Valdez to be thrown onto and then off of her vehicle, and onto the adjacent sidewalk, according to court records.

Arias did not stop to help Valdez or call for help, she told police. When she arrived home she sat in her parked vehicle for about 20 minutes, “in shock.”

“She stated she…knows she was wrong for leaving but did not know what to do about it,” the police report of her interview said. “She stated she is sorry, but believes that saying sorry is not enough and will never make up for what she has done.”

Hoefling declined to comment on Arias’ emotional state or her actions during the interview because it’s an ongoing case that has not been prosecuted yet. He also declined to release the video recording of her statement for the same reason.

The court files also describe how officers investigating Valdez’ injuries, before connecting Arias to the incident, tried to identify the vehicle that hit him by examining broken vehicle parts found near where Valdez was located.

During their investigation, police also talked to Valdez’ friends he was hanging out with the evening of June 15 before he was hit, and to Arias’ friends she had been visiting.

Arias’ friends confirmed that she had been drinking before she drove home that night, but added they did not think she was intoxicated, according to police reports.

Within a week of the accident, police received a tip reporting Arias’ car, which was parked near Butterfield Boulevard and Jarvis Drive, had recently suffered front-end damage. On June 21, officers visited her home at the Cochrane Village apartment complex, and contacted her brother who said Arias would return home about 5 p.m.

When police caught up with her later that night, Arias told officers the damage was the result of two vandalism incidents – one that was documented with Morgan Hill police in 2008 and a June 17 incident that she did not report, according to the court files.

She also told police that she had not told anyone privately that she had been involved in the accident, but told her boyfriend that her car had been vandalized a couple days after she hit Valdez.

The report also indicates that the tipster who noticed the damaged Volkswagen reported the vehicle June 20 to the victim’s mother Stacie Valdez, who in turn reported it to police.

The police files provide more details about how officers found Valdez and how they investigated the crime.

Police found Valdez while they were looking for an intoxicated suspect in the area who was reported by employees of Lusamerica Fish, a food distribution business on Railroad Avenue. While canvassing the area by car, an officer on patrol saw Valdez lying on his back near a tree, breathing but unconscious. Due to the position in which he was lying, with the tree between his legs, one of the officers initially thought he tried to climb the tree, but fell down and hurt himself.

Officers determined that Valdez was not the suspect who was reported by Lusamerica employees.

There were no visible injuries to Valdez’ face or front side of his body, but the officer did not move him and called paramedics who later determined he suffered multiple injuries.

After he was transported to the hospital by ambulance, authorities determined Valdez had a blood-alcohol content of .14 percent.

Valdez was returning home from a friend’s house when he was hit, police said. He and a group of friends had been hanging out and drinking beer earlier that day at Christmas Hill Park in Gilroy. Valdez got a ride with another friend to Morgan Hill,  according to the police narrative.

After the friend who gave them a ride arrived at her home near Paradise Park, Valdez and his friend Joshua Garner walked north to go to their respective homes. They parted about 11 p.m. on San Pedro Avenue, where Garner tried to wake up another friend at a business his family owned, and where the friend sometimes spends the night.

Unable to get inside the building, Garner continued walking to another friend’s apartment where he planned to spend the night, police said.

Garner walked up to Butterfield Boulevard and continued walking north, on the opposite side of the street where Valdez was found, police said. But he did not see Valdez or any police in the area when he walked up Butterfield Boulevard.

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