wplg logo

Driver now faces first-degree murder charges after he leaves scene, motorcyclist dies, investigator says

A driver who made an illegal U turn and hit a motorcyclist then took off is facing felony murder charges.
A driver who made an illegal U turn and hit a motorcyclist then took off is facing felony murder charges.

MIAMI, Fla. – A Pennsylvania man who was driving another person’s car crashed into a motorcycle Wednesday. The motorcyclist that was struck died Friday from his injuries.

Rafael Romero, 63, passed away Friday morning, according to his daughter.

On Wednesday, around 6:30 p.m. Gil A. Maldonadoespejo, 50, was driving a white 2018 Toyota Corolla when investigators said he made an illegal U-turn with a No U-turn sign posted northbound on Northwest 42nd Avenue. Romero was driving a 2003 Honda Shadow motorcycle when investigators said the car driven by Maldonadoespejo caused a collision. The crash happened at LeJeune Road and Northwest 11th Street, just south of State Road 836.

According to Miami-Dade Police, Maldonadoespejo abandoned the car after the crash, leaving the car in the right lane on Northwest 42nd Avenue.

Rafael Romero, 63, was riding his motorcycle to work on Wednesday when a car struck him. He died from his injuries on Friday. (WPLG)

A Miami-Dade Police officer saw the driver walking southbound on the same street. The police officer said he then watched the man, later identified as Maldonadoespejo, walk to the rear of a Chevron Gas Station and could be seen on the telephone. He then went back to the car and tried to drive off, according to investigators, where he was arrested.

The car’s owner was contacted by police and said that Maldonadoespejo had accompanied him to the Miami International Airport where he was to drop him off and drive the car back to the owner’s house.

The car’s owner said Maldonadoespejo telephoned him soon after the crash and sounded disoriented and was nervous. He said that his head was hurting, but the man said the phone then went dead.

Romero’s daughter, Susana Romero, told Local 10 that she was disturbed that driver would leave her father injured on the road.

“You can’t just leave a scene and leave someone to die. The fact that he left in the first place is very heartbreaking to me because my dad lost a lot of blood,” Susana Romero said Thursday before her father died.

Detectives said Maldonadoespejo eventually returned to the scene of the crash. But since he decided to leave in the first place, detectives are considering it a hit-and-run crash.

“It doesn’t make a difference whether he came back or not,” Susana Romero said.

When he was interviewed, the suspect said that someone crashed into him and that he did not leave the scene. He also complained of a headache and fire rescue was called after he requested to be taking to the hospital. He was checked, medically cleared and then taken to the Miami Police department for questioning.

Now that the victim has died, the charges against Maldonadoespejo have been upgraded to a first-degree murder felony. He is facing at least four years in prison.

About the Authors:

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local 10.com.

Christian De La Rosa joined Local 10 News in April 2017 after spending time as a reporter and anchor in Atlanta, San Diego, Orlando and Panama City Beach.