KINGSPORT - Kingsport police are searching for a Hispanic man who fled the scene of a vehicle accident on foot last week that left two Tri-Cities teens hospitalized with multiple injuries.
According to Kingsport Police Department Patrolman John McGee, on July 20 a Hispanic man driving north on John B. Dennis Highway left the roadway and struck a stopped vehicle at Enterprise Place in front of the Hardee's restaurant. An 18-year-old male and a 15-year-old female were ejected from the vehicle, and the Hispanic man fled the scene on foot.
Mount Carmel resident Denise Livesay, mother of the 18-year-old, said her son suffered a level four concussion, lacerated spleen, a broken tooth, and cuts and bruises. Livesay said the 15-year-old had broken ribs, a concussion, cuts and bruises, and had to have staples put in her head.
McGee said witnesses say the suspect is in his 20s, 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall, stocky build with an odd haircut - either a Mohawk or an odd-looking bowl cut.
The problem police are having with the investigation is getting an ID on the driver and owner of the vehicle.
According to McGee, the name of the person who purchased the vehicle from a car dealer in Elizabethton is not matching the description of the person who fled from the scene of the accident.
Pay stubs from Texas Roadhouse were also found in the trunk of the vehicle, but after speaking with restaurant management, again the description did not match the name.
Authorities and the Livesay family have also located a couple of houses in Kingsport and Johnson City where the suspect may live, but according to McGee, these are dead ends too.
"We don't know for sure if that's where anyone is coming from. We've talked to people at the Kingsport home, and nobody knows that name," McGee said. "The address we have out of Johnson City, police have been by and nobody lives there anymore."
McGee said the names being used are "Jesus Mariano" and the last name "Salas." Social Security numbers have been located but are coming back belonging to no one.
"There's dead ends everywhere we go - old addresses and telephone numbers. There seems to be places where no one lives anymore or numbers don't work anymore," McGee said. "Several people are using the same name, and we have found they're not matching the description of anyone who left the scene."
According to McGee, Jesus Mariano has a previous arrest record in Kingsport for DUI and driving without a license. However, the photo on record does not match the description of the hit-and-run suspect. A bottle of Tequila was found in the suspect's vehicle, but McGee said the bottle was still sealed.
Authorities also do not know at this time if the suspect is in the country illegally.
"We've tried to contact Immigration, and they're not getting back to us on anything just yet," McGee said.
When found, McGee said the suspect would face a charge of leaving the scene of an accident with injuries - a Class A misdemeanor - which carries a maximum sentence of 11 months, and 29 days in jail.
On Tuesday, Livesay sent out an e-mail to some friends regarding the accident, raising some concerns she had with the initial investigation along with photos of the accident. Some of the concerns she had were dogs were not sent out to find the suspect, photos were not taken of the vehicles, and she was told the matter was of a civil nature and not a felony.
Livesay was also upset about the possibility of an illegal alien being involved in the accident. Livesay said she kept getting the same reply from the police - that it's really hard when dealing with illegals.
"My point is, if that illegal gets back across Mexico, comes back with a different name and different Social Security number, he has a chance to do it again."
McGee explained most of the time dogs would not have been brought in since there was not a fatality, patrol officers do not have cameras to take accident pictures, and as far it being a civil matter, the responding officer said to recoup damages the family would have to sue the driver in civil court for compensation.
The e-mail eventually made its way to Mayor Dennis Phillips, state Rep. Nathan Vaughn and the administration of the Kingsport Police Department. A meeting of police administration was held earlier this week, McGee was called in to handle the matter personally, and a detective has been assigned to help with the investigation.
"I was wanting them to make things right, but it's too late now for that wreck. It's not in the future," Livesay said, adding she would like to thank everyone who has helped her family during this time.
McGee said his understanding of the situation is the responding officer has actually gone above and beyond the normal call of duty.
"He spent time on his off day, several hours trying to do investigations and not getting paid. I think there was some misinterpretation on what he was trying to explain ... to how they took it," McGee said, adding the matter is being investigated thoroughly. "I'd be torn all to pieces too. We're just trying to explain that until we get a positive ID on someone, we can't place charges."