New details emerge in fatal Madras hit-and-run; suspect remains in California jail

By TED TAYLOR
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY

The trucker accused of a fatal hit-and-run in Madras Tuesday night told his supervisor he remembered swerving to avoid a “dark, shadowy figure” but didn’t believe he hit anything, according to court documents.

Jose Manuel Bernal-Mendoza remains in an Azusa, Calif. jail Thursday on several charges, including second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. Police say he struck and killed 59-year-old Anthony Shadley as he crossed Highway 97 on the way to a warming shelter around 7 p.m. Tuesday night.

Bernal-Mendoza, 47, was arrested Wednesday morning in Azusa as he made his scheduled delivery there, 877 miles away.

According to the arrest affidavit, Madras Police officers were able to glean information about the suspected truck after discovering broken plastic pieces at the crime scene, including pieces that displayed the brand of the truck – VOLVO – and a serial number.

The court document said officers immediately canvassed local businesses for possible surveillance video of the crash site and found that the Wild Winds Station sports bar had cameras directed toward the road. Officers were able to view the video and see a Volvo VNL series semi and box trailer traveling south on Highway 97 around the same time.

They also saw the semi had pulled over briefly on the west side of Highway 97 at 6:55 p.m., around the time the accident was believed to have taken place.

The truck continued south on Highway 97 and through the ODOT weigh station at Juniper Butte 13 miles away. Officers contacted ODOT to get info from the weigh station and determined only two Volvo semis passed through the station and one with a box trailer passed through at 7:11 p.m.

Through the ODOT photos, officers were able to get a license plate and ID the truck and carrier, 5D Cargo Express Inc. out of Laredo, Texas.

Officers then contacted Fernando Lopez, a safety supervisor with the trucking company, and told them they believed one of their trucks had been involved in a crash. Lopez said the truck was operated by a two-person team of Bernal-Mendoza and 36-year-old Juan Vacca-Serrano and that Bernal-Mendoza was the driver of the truck between 4:42 and 7:01 p.m.

Wednesday morning, Lopez told officers he spoke to Bernal-Mendoza bout the crash.

“Mr. Bernal-Mendoza told him he swerved to avoid a dark, shadowy figure, but did not believe he hit anything,” according to the affidavit.

Lopez pinpointed the exact location of the truck for Madras officers, who then worked with Azusa Police in arranging an arrest.

Detective Sgt. Steve Webb said it could take more than a month before Bernal-Mendoza returns to Jefferson County to face charges.

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