Antioch woman arrested in hit-and-run death

May 16, 2008 12:39:04 PM PDT
The California Highway Patrol has arrested a 38-year-old Antioch woman for the hit-and-run death of a pedestrian on U.S. Highway 101 Saturday.

CHP Officer Mary Ziegenbein said Renita Michelle Surles was arrested at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday at her home for vehicular manslaughter, hit-and-run, child endangerment and driving under the influence. She is being held in the Marin County Jail.

Jorge Luis Rodas Lopez, 42, a Novato landscaper, was killed Saturday evening when he was struck by a gold Honda Odyssey on the side of northbound Highway 101.

The CHP said Lopez had just finished putting gasoline in his 1983 Nissan pickup truck when he was struck around 6:40 p.m. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

CHP officers found Lopez just south of Ignacio Boulevard on the right shoulder of the highway 70 feet from his vehicle.

Ziegenbein said the CHP found the Odyssey's front bumper at the crash scene and used part of a tag inside the bumper to trace it to Mike's Auto Body in Antioch. A body shop employee traced the tag and bumper to Surles, Ziegenbein said.

Surles was in a previous accident and had taken the Odyssey to the body shop to replace the bumper, Ziegenbein said.

Police watched Surles' house for two days to find the Honda and saw Surles' husband get into another vehicle. A license plate check determined the vehicle was a rental car from Mike's Auto Body, Ziegenbein said. They found the gold Honda Odyssey there with the bumper and right front tire missing and damage to the right front quarter panel, Ziegenbein said.

Surles told the CHP she was lost on Highway 101 Saturday evening but saw a Hispanic man standing in front of a pickup truck. She said she thought she hit only the truck and panicked, Ziegenbein said.

Surles said she pulled off the freeway into a gas station and waited there for 45 minutes, Ziegenbein said. Surles said when nobody came by and she didn't hear sirens she left, Ziegenbein said.

Surles was arrested on suspicion of DUI in Pleasant Hill and released about three hours after the Saturday evening crash, Ziegenbein said. Surles faces the child endangerment charge because her 5-year-old son was in the car, Ziegenbein said.

The Beryt Oliver Landscapes company in Mill Valley where Lopez worked has set up an assistance fund at the Bank of America in Mill Valley for Lopez's wife and children.