By Russ Lay on December 10, 2012
It only takes a split second for dozens of lives to change.
That is how long it took for a car driven by Luis Rodriguez to collide with a truck driven by Paul Thomas.
Joe Storie, a regular visitor to our shores, a man who loved the Outer Banks, lost his life. His sister Chris and wife Alicia were seriously injured and airlifted to Norfolk.
It took far longer for the wheels of justice to arrive at a point where the man charged with vehicular homicide vanished and has avoided facing the charges against him in a court of law.
That collision occurred just over a year ago, on Oct. 5, 2011.
As the anniversary of the death of Joe Storie passed his family is left with many questions, few answers and a feeling that the person who caused his death has escaped justice.
The Voice interviewed three of Joe Storie’s sisters this summer. In this video, Chris Storie remembers what led to the collision, which cut short the life of a husband, father, brother and respected employer.
The night of the accident, Rodruiguez was taken to Sentara Norfolk General hospital. Alicia and Chris Storie were airlifted to Sentara Norfolk. General.
Rodriguez was charged with one count of felony death by vehicle, two counts of serious injury by vehicle and one count of driving while impaired.
According to a former town official, the town asked the District Attorney’s office file a detainer on Rodriguez with Virginia authorities. A detainer essentially requests that a person be held against their will; in other words, in detention.
But Rodriguez was still in the hospital, and ccording to the District Attorney’s office, a detainer can only be filed against a person in custody.
Sources within the Kill Devil Hills Police Department told the Voice they requested aid from the Norfolk Police Department to ensure Rodriguez did not leave the hospital. But they were informed that Norfolk could not spare the manpower, although the state would argue later that there were Norfolk police officers stationed at the hospital.
Police called Sentara Norfolk General every day while Rodriguez was a patient to check on his recovery and were told, “he is in no condition to walk out of here” each time.
But eventually that is exactly what Luis Rodriguez did.
As soon as Kill Devil Hills police learned Rodriguez had fled Norfolk, they launched an investigation and worked to capture the fugitive.
According to documents filed in the Dare County courthouse, the police filed a warrant, worked with the Dare County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies and eventually were able to locate Rodriguez.
The documents reveal that the police believed Rodriguez received help from local residents and they were able to track him down to Raleigh, N.C.
Raleigh police officers arrested Rodriguez and he was returned to Dare County.
One document filed by Kill Devil Hills police says that when captured, Rodriguez was “attempting to abscond to Honduras.”
Five days after the accident, in an Oct. 10, 2011 town Board of Commissioner’s meeting, the official minutes reveal the town was also concerned about Rodriguez being returned to Dare County.
The minutes, referring to then-Mayor Ray Sturza read:
“Mayor Sturza was asked by the family to take whatever action he could take to ensure the person charged, who is not an American citizen, in the accident is not released.
“The Town Attorney has been asked to communicate with the appropriate agencies to communicate the Board’s intention that the man, who is charged with three felonies and one misdemeanor, return to Dare County for trial.
“Mayor Sturza asked the Board for their authorization to support him in this matter and it was given.
“KDH Officer Tatterson explained the communications he has had today with hospital officials, Norfolk law enforcement, federal/state agencies, and others that the Town desires to ensure the man be retained in custody. The Town’s police officers do not have jurisdiction in Norfolk.”
Rodriguez was charged with felony death by vehicle while engaged in the offense of impaired driving, two counts of felonious serious injury by vehicle, and driving while impaired.
When charged, Rodriguez filed a court document that he had no job and listed his assets as zero.
He was appointed a public defender.
Rodriguez had his first bond reduction hearing on Dec. 9, 2011. Judge Edgar Barnes presided, and Rodriguez was represented by the public defender.
At that hearing, officers from the Kill Devil Hills police department were present, as were members of the Storie family, including Alicia and Christina.
At the time of the crash, the traffic signal at Colington Road and U.S. 158 was malfunctioning and had defaulted to flashing mode. Rodriguez’s attorney brought up the malfunctioning traffic light as a possible contributor to the crash.
The district attorney’s office argued the light was flashing red for Rodriguez, who was driving on Colington Road. Barnes also allowed family members to speak about Joe Storie and the kind of person he was.
Barnes did not reduce the bond, leaving it at $60,000 secured for the felony death and $40,000 secured for the other offenses.
Next: The Storie family travels overnight for another bond hearing.