A piece of justice given to family of Pasco hit-and-run victim

A piece of justice given to family of Pasco hit-and-run victim

The family of Martin Perez Garcia is one step closer to justice.

Last week, Sergio Garin-Villalobos was arrested for the hit-and-run death of Garcia, after being on the run for nearly a year.

“I was just in shock. I couldn’t believe it,” said Rebecca Pimienta, Martin’s sister. “Are you sure? Is it him? It was a good thing in an unexpected way.”

Pimienta and her family have been living in a world of unknown. Not knowing if her brother’s killer would be caught.

On Nov. 4, 2018, a black truck hit Garcia while he was walking on the westbound on-ramp lane near State Route 395 and Argent Road in Pasco. He was killed around 1:00 a.m., but his body wasn’t found for hours.

According to court documents, a left turn signal lamp was left behind. The part number came back to a black Chevy Blazer. For months, Washington State Patrol had been looking for leads in the death of Garcia, who Pimienta called a jokester and great father of four.

Detectives caught a break on Aug. 26, 2019. An anonymous caller said she knew the driver involved in the crash, identifying Villalobos. According to court documents, she said she overheard Villalobos tell his mother that he may have hit the person who was killed on the highway.

The caller also said Villalobos sold a black 1999 Chevy S10 pickup to someone in Yuba City, California in January 2019. WSP contacted the local department, who contacted the buyer. The person is related to Villalobos.

The family member told California officers that Villalobos came down to California and said he needed money for a plane ticket to get back to work in Washington state, according to court documents.

Investigators later identified the anonymous caller as Villalobos’s ex-wife. According to Garcia’s sister, this broke open the case.

“I think if it wasn’t for his wife who came forward with all the information that she knew, I feel like he would’ve just been walking among us,” Pimienta said. “We would have never suspected him in any way.”

The ex-wife talked to detectives who spelled out more of the situation.

She told them Villalobos showed up to her house a few hours after the crash in his mother’s car, which the ex-wife said was not normal. She said he was “nervous” and “angry” when he picked her up, court documents said. They went to his house and the truck wasn’t there.

On Sept. 26, detectives got phone records and access to Villalobos’s e-mail. He allegedly searched on Craigslist for “windshield parts,” and also looked up news articles about the crash.

This information leads his family to believe that he tried to cover up the death of Garcia.

“As far as him trying to hide everything, I feel like he doesn’t have any remorse,” she said. “He doesn’t feel guilty for what he’s doing to us and what he did to my brother, but I don’t feel like he’s remorseful in any way.”

On Oct. 2, the ex-wife came back to police with more information. She said she got into a fight around Sept. 6 with Villalobos. Court documents say the family members in California called him about the investigation into the truck. That’s when Villalobos allegedly asked his ex-wife for retainer money for an attorney.

The ex-wife said she refused, making Villalobos agitated, court documents explained. His mother and father were also in the house at the time of this incident. A probable cause affidavit says the family told her not to go to the cops “or else it won’t be good for you.”

The weekend before, court documents said the ex-wife was involved in a conversation with Villalobos and his dad. He allegedly asked his dad if he “should get rid of the evidence” he still had. The dad said no because “that would look suspicious,” court documents explained.

Pimienta said the alleged involvement of the parents doesn’t sit well with her.

“They were covering up for him and that’s not fair because, even my mom said it, if one of us were to do something like that, and she found out, she would report us,” she said. “She [mom] just wants them to think about — put themselves in her shoes. She doesn’t have her son. They were holding very valuable information that could’ve helped the case and I feel like there should be repercussions for them as well.”

The ex-wife told police remaining parts to the truck might be in his garage. It was later discovered that the ex-wife received missed calls and text messages from Villalobos, about 30 minutes after the crash.

“I would never wish this upon anyone, but if he could put himself in our shoes for a moment, I feel like he would understand where we’re coming from and how we want justice for my brother,” Pimienta said.

On Oct. 3, Villalobos was arrested in Vancouver and brought back to the Tri-Cities.

“You can see a little bit of relief that he’s not out on the streets,” Pimienta said. “I think he’s [Garcia] probably happy that he’s caught and that this is bringing closure to our family.”

For Pimienta and her family, they know Garcia won’t come back. However, a few little pieces of him are left in their lives.

“All of his kids were a gift to us,” she said. “God knew his life was going to be short — cut short, and he wanted to give us four little gifts to all of us to remember him.”

Charges were filed on Oct. 8 against Villalobos. He’s been charged with failure to stop and identify at the scene of an injury accident and tampering with a witness.

His next court appearance is later this month.