Subscribe to glassBYTEs!

Auto Glass Tech Solves Hit-and-Run Case

Michael Lester, owner of Dependable Auto Glass in Oregon, Wis., wasn't aware that a local hit-and-run had occurred when he replaced the windshield of a minivan owned by Felix Romero-Ocotl on March 14. But when he heard a radio report a few weeks later that police were looking for a minivan with a tinted backlite and no luggage rack on top, this particular replacement came to mind.

He called the police, who were able to locate the vehicle and bring it in for testing and confirm that it was involved in the accident. While the driver told police he had hit a deer, Lester says the vehicle owner didn't tell him anything about the damage—and he didn't ask.

"The guy was really nervous," Lester says. "He had the vehicle covered underneath a tarp behind his house It was cold, and he was in his pajamas wrapped up in a blanket. He wouldn't leave me alone. He sat there and stared at me the whole time."

Lester says when he heard the radio reports about the hit-and-run, he remembered the incident—and the fact that the vehicle owner lived near the accident scene.

He also noted some other suspicions about the vehicle itself.

"I smelled booze inside the vehicle—-that stale smell," he said.

The victim, Lucas Peerenboom, 20, was struck on March 10 and later died. Romero-Ocotl called Lester's shop the next day for a quote and the work was done on March 14. Once Lester heard of the hit-and-run and remembered the incident in early April, he called his shop and had his secretary gather all the information about the questionable vehicle and its owner.

"When I heard it on the radio, almost a month later, it struck me, and everything matched up," he says. Lester adds that since the report—and his name has appeared in several news stories about the incident—he has seen a lag in some parts of business (but did note an increase in dealership work). He's still glad he called, though, despite this.

"We respect the privacy of our customers and such," he says, "but when someone dies, and it's a kid, you've got to step up."

While Romero-Ocotl has been charged, police have not been able to locate him since they originally detained his vehicle on April 19, according to reports from the Capital Times.

Need more info and analysis about the issues?
CLICK HERE to subscribe to AGRR magazine.