The parents of a bicyclist killed in a hit and run collision on a Turlock country road have filed a civil suit against the woman driving the car, as well as her parents and a Stanislaus County Sheriff’s sergeant.
The lawsuit, filed in Stanislaus County Superior Court by Jim and Mary O’Connor, names Vanessa Carrillo, Elizabeth Carrillo, Juan Carrillo and Sgt. Marc Nuno as defendants.
Carrillo was behind the wheel in the collision that killed the O’Connor’s son, 27-year-old Patrick O’Connor on Sept. 1, 2010, on Fulkerth Road, just outside of Turlock.
The lawsuit alleges that Carrillo acted with extreme negligence when she fled the scene of the collision and that the others conspired to keep her from justice. It is seeking unspecified damages for wrongful death, negligence, emotional distress and conspiracy.
In criminal proceedings that concluded in May, Carrillo pled no contest to a felony charge of hit and run and a misdemeanor charge of vehicular manslaughter and was sentenced to one year in jail and two years probation. She surrendered herself to the sheriff’s department custody on Thursday.
Patrick O’Connor was a tax consultant from Sacramento. He was staying in Turlock while working on a project for Foster Farms. Patrick O’Connor was in training for an Iron Man competition and decided to get in a bike ride during his brief visit.
According to the California Highway Patrol, Carrillo was traveling between an approximate speed of 55 to 60 mph when her vehicle struck Patrick O’Connor from behind. The impact sent the 27-year-old tumbling over the front end of the car and onto the pavement. The injuries he sustained proved fatal and Patrick O’Connor was pronounced dead at the scene.
The CHP report states Carrillo made no effort to stop prior to the collision. She did stop about 150 feet away from the point of impact before driving away.
The sound of the crash caught the attention of a nearby resident standing outside his home with his children. The witness turned to where the sound came from and saw a white vehicle speeding down the road. Looking a little further down the road, the man’s eyes fell on a crumpled figure lying in the middle of the road.
He quickly called 911 and his neighbor who lived further down Fulkerth and told him to be on the lookout for a white car. The second witness made it out of his home just in time to see a white car go speeding by. The witness was able to get a partial license plate number and told the CHP investigators he could see damage to the vehicle and the driver was talking on a cell phone as she passed.
Carrillo drove to her mother’s house in Patterson and about an hour after the collision she called 911 and told them she had hit something and that she believed it was a dog.
When CHP officers arrived at the Patterson home they saw the Toyota Corolla and noticed that it had significant front end damage, including a missing portion of the front bumper, a deep indent in the hood and a broken windshield. Upon a closer look they could see blood and hair on the roof on the car, according to the report.
In her initial statement to the CHP, Carrillo said she was traveling on Fulkerth and saw a black figure, but that the sun was in her eyes and then she felt and heard the impact.
She said she stopped about 150 feet away and looking through her rear view mirror, she saw a black figure in the road. Carrillo told the CHP she called her mother and told her that she had just hit something. Her mother advised her to stay there, but Carrillo said she panicked and fled the scene.
She told the officers she was not distracted prior to the collision and that she had not been using a cell phone at the time.
Upon further questioning, Carrillo changed a portion of her story, saying she had returned to the scene with her mother and an unnamed person and saw the emergency vehicle and then went home and called 911.
The CHP report mentions no alcohol or drug test given to Carrillo that day and no arrest was made at that time.
The lawsuit alleges that the CHP officer who spoke with Carrillo that night was prepared to arrest her but was deterred from doing so by Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Sgt. Marc Nuno, who was present at her Patterson home.
The lawsuit claims Carrillo, a criminal justice student at California State University, Stanislaus at the time of the collision, met Nuno during a ride-along with the sheriff’s department and that Nuno interfered with the investigation on Carrillo’s behalf.
The lawsuit states: “Defendant Marc Nuno’s actions on behalf of defendant Vanessa Carrillo were the result of their personal and intimate relationship and that defendant Marc Nuno, as a peace officer, understood that his interference and involvement in the investigation of defendant Vanessa Carrillo would compromise, delay and taint the investigation and prosecution of defendant Vanessa Carrillo for the hit and run.”
Carrillo’s parents are named in the suit because the O’Connors said they were aware of their daughter’s traffic violations and accidents, but paid for her vehicle anyway and therefore should be held accountable as well.
The O’Connor family has expressed frustration over Carrillo’s plea deal and the handling of the case by the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office. In a letter sent to District Attorney Birgit Fladager, Jim O’Connor wrote: “Again, your office demonstrates deception and a lack of concern, indifference, callous and a nefarious attitude for justice not only for the remaining victims of this killer, but also for my dead son Patrick.”