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Frustration felt for unsolved hit-and-run cases

6:38 PM, Feb 16, 2014   |    comments
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DENVER - It's not exactly like getting away with murder, but more than three years after someone ran over a pregnant woman in Denver's Stapleton neighborhood, Denver Police traffic investigators acknowledge the time for nabbing their suspect in the high-profile crime has likely come and gone.

Laurie Gorham Sherlock suffered life-threatening injuries when a car hit her at 29th Avenue and Central Park Boulevard on Dec. 9, 2010, while she was trying to walk across the road at the intersection. At the hospital, doctors delivered tiny Edison Sherlock but were unable to keep him alive. 

Three years and two months later, Denver police have yet to make an arrest in the case, and Colorado law all but ensures that will never change. The statute of limitations for leaving the scene of a crash involving serious bodily injury expires after three years.

"It's over," said Denver Police Lt. Robert Rock.

"Is that frustrating?" asked 9Wants to Know investigator Chris Vanderveen. 

"Very much so," he replied. "We might be able to do something, but unfortunately very little. The statute of limitations has run out on that case."

It's the main reason why Lt. Rock keeps a white board on the wall just outside of his office at the Denver Traffic Operations Bureau. 

On the board there are names of each and every one of the city's recent and unsolved hit-and-runs involving death. Next to every victim's name is the number of days before the police department runs up against the legal timeline. 

The statute of limitations on fatal hit-and-runs in Colorado runs out after five years.

"My biggest fear at night when I go home for the day is that our time limit is going to expire, and we're not going to get our bite at the apple again," said Lt. Rock.

Denver Det. Trista Turney feels the pressure of Lt. Rock's white board every time she walks into the office. 

"Oh, absolutely," said the 14 year veteran with Denver Police. "My name's up there a couple of times."

One of her cases involves the death of Ramon Diaz-Lozano, 52, on Jan. 15, 2012. She knows a white Honda four-door sedan hit Diaz-Lozano as he tried to walk across Federal near West Kentucky Avenue. 

"There's somebody out there who knows something," she said. "I need somebody who can place a driver behind the wheel. When you talk about running down a human being, it's just incredible that someone would leave after doing that," she said.

Like many hit-and-runs, if the driver who hit Diaz-Lozano would have stopped, he or she likely would have faced a traffic citation, at most. The driver wasn't at fault, but the moment he or she chose to flee the scene, that driver committed a felony.

"[The driver] stopped for two seconds and then continued northbound [on Federal]," said Det. Turney. "It's absolutely a felony." 

A joint-investigation between I-News and 9Wants to Know reveals that 104 people died in Colorado between 2008 and 2012 as a result of hit-and-run. Almost two-thirds, or 64, were pedestrians or bicyclists.

In addition, our investigation found between 2011 and 2013, about 1,300 people in Lakewood, Aurora, and Denver were injured in hit and run accidents. That amounts to around one a day.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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