Police believe they now know who is responsible for the hit-and-run accident that killed a Tomé woman as she walked on NM 47 on Friday, June 8.
Valencia County Sheriff’s Detective Rene Rivera said that a 60-year-old Los Lunas woman came into his office Monday morning saying she thinks she was the one who may have hit Helen Gutierrez, 37, from behind.
Rivera, who is withholding the name of the woman, said the woman was on her way home from work when the accident occurred.
“She was en route home on Highway 47 when, she said, she was in the area where the accident occurred,” Rivera said. “She said she heard a noise on the side of the road, as if someone threw something at her car.”
Rivera said the woman never saw or heard anyone on the highway that night, but got scared when she thought someone had thrown an object at her car.
“She got scared and drove home,” Rivera said. “The next morning she told her husband that someone had thrown something at her car. He looked at the damage and they didn’t think much about it after that.”
The woman didn’t realize she hit anyone until she went to a store on Thursday, June 13, and picked up a copy of the News-Bulletin. When the woman read the story about Gutierrez’s death, she remembered she was driving on NM 47 that night and that something had hit her car, Rivera said.
“She was afraid to come forward after she realized she may have been the one that hit the victim,” Rivera said. “She wanted to get advice from her family before she came in to talk.”
After the woman and her husband talked with Rivera Monday morning, the detective went to her house to investigate her vehicle. Rivera said he found a 1988 off-white Grand Fury with a small dent in the hood, a missing emblem and a busted headlight.
“The vehicle and the damage matched the evidence recovered at the scene of the accident,” Rivera said. “We are still trying to piece everything together.”
When asked if the woman remembered seeing a vehicle behind her flash its headlights after the accident, Rivera said, “She didn’t remember seeing a car in back of her and didn’t even remember slowing down. She just said she became very terrified and scared.”
Rivera said he is currently investigating the woman’s driving record, and, once he concludes his investigation, he’ll turn his findings over to the district attorney’s office, which will decide whether charges will be filed.
“Apparently, a similar accident like this occurred to this woman before, where she was driving under a bridge and someone threw a rock and hit her car,” Rivera said. “I think when she thought someone threw something at her car that night, she was re-living what happened under the bridge.”
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.