WEST NEW YORK, N.J. — Two arrests have been made in a hit-and-run that killed a 7-year-old girl as she walked to school with her mother in New Jersey, a source told PIX11 News.
The source said the car and driver were found Monday night, hours after the crash. The suspects were identified Tuesday as 33-year-old Fabian Rodriguez, an undocumented immigrant from Ecuador, and 26-year-old Joanna Rosas-Alvarez.
Shayla Pichardo was walking to school with her mother at Van Buren Place and 61st Street Monday morning when they were struck by a black Chevy Tahoe that sped away from the scene, leaving the first-grader gravely wounded in the middle of the road, police said.
The girl died from her injuries soon after. Her mother's knee was wounded and was taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries, police said.
On Tuesday, Javier Pichardo could not contain himself at an afternoon news conference. Shayla's father was completely overcome with emotion after losing his only child.
While Rodriguez was allegedly alone behind the wheel, it was Rosas-Alvarez actions miles away from the crime scene that resulted in her arrest.
"Approximately 9 a.m. was when they reported the vehicle stolen to Hillside Police Department," according to police.
Police believe that was part of a sinister ruse by the couple to not place Rodriguez in the car nor behind the wheel.
"We are believing it's a cover. The Hillside Police Department is charging them with false police reports. We do know that the car was not stolen," said Sgt. Bruce Miller.
The couple lived in Newark. It was also there where law enforcement discovered the Chevy Tahoe Monday night.
"Terrible," is how one neighbor described the death of little Shayla.
Law enforcement said that it was old-fashion police work involving multiple agencies that led them to an arrest.
"From the video we were able to get the first two and last two characters from the license plate and then just a series of detectives going through different plates, we came up with the car out of Newark."
The video also captured the actions of the driver following impact, and detectives say Rodriguez was well aware of the crime he committed.
"You can see the vehicle stop briefly. He exits the vehicle and approaches the victim and then he retreats to the vehicle."
Through it all, the strongest person in the room was the man who just minutes earlier had broken down. Javier Pichardo in his native Spanish sent a message to everyone, including the man charged with killing his daughter.
"I speak from the bottom of my heart take care of your kids and may God bless them all. For the man who did this to my daughter, I do not wish him any harm, God Bless him."
West New York Mayor Felix Roque vowed to captured the driver.
"A 7-year-old girl, a first grader run down like an animal and they took off and we're going to get him," Roque said hours after the fatal crash.