2 arrested in hit-and-run that killed girl, 5

Girl hit by van in Fort Lauderdale neighborhood

By Ben Kennedy - Reporter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Two suspects have been arrested in connection with a hit-and-run crash that resulted in the death of a 5-year-old girl.

Yanelle Lucero, 5, was riding a plastic tricycle in the 100 block of Northwest 67th Street on Sunday afternoon when a white cargo van hit her.

Fort Lauderdale police said the driver of the van, whom they identified as Erik Garcia, 19, of Fort Lauderdale, immediately ran away from the scene.

VIDEO: Neighborhood mourns Yanelle

Garcia's friend, Mario Argumedo, 19, of Pompano Beach, witnessed the incident, police said. Investigators said Argumedo picked up the girl, carried her to her mother, Katherine Diaz, then went back to the van and drove it away from the crash scene.

"It's also alleged that at some point, you attempted to discard the tricycle that the young girl had been riding," Judge John Hurley said in court Monday morning.

Yanelle's mother tried to drive her to a hospital while calling for help. Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue met up with the mother on southbound Interstate 95 near Sunrise Boulevard about 5:30 p.m. Sunday. She was taken to Broward General Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

"I can't forgive him because he took my little one away, but God will if he's really sorry for it," said Diaz. "He can't bring her back."

According to the probable cause affidavit, Garcia called the Broward Sheriff's Office to turn himself in.

Fort Lauderdale police said they found the white van and Argumedo in Pompano Beach. According to the probable cause affidavit, Argumedo admitted to his involvement and told police he was not driving the car at the time of the crash, but that he was frightened and left the scene after removing the child from beneath the van. Police said Argumedo's driver's license had been suspended.

Garcia is charged with leaving the scene of a crash involving death, no valid driver's license and failure to use due care. Argumedo was charged with leaving the scene of a crash involving death, tampering with evidence and allowing an unlicensed driver to operate a vehicle in his possession.

"They caught him. They caught him. They did? Oh my god," Diaz said through tears, nearly collapsing after learning of the arrests.

When shown a picture of Argumedo, Diaz said, "I recognize him. He's the one who brought her to me, and he looked scared."

VIDEO: Mother reacts to hit-and-run suspects arrests

In court Monday morning, it came out that both men have been in the U.S. for six years. They do not have employment. Neither speaks English, so an interpreter helped them communicate in court.

Garcia and Argumedo will remain in the county jail. Garcia has an immigration hold, and Argumedo, in addition to having nine unpaid traffic violations in the past year in Broward County, has a drug charge pending against him, for which bond has been revoked.

Flowers, a teddy bear and candles now line the spot where Yanelle was hit.

"He should have (stood) up and told it was an accident. If you run away, it's worse," said Yanelle's older sister, Keyra Lucero.

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