Police: Man fatally struck woman with her own SUV in Miami after stealing it

Police say suspect struck victim ‘intentionally’ and ‘maliciously’

MIAMI – A 23-year-old man was arrested on a first-degree murder charge Thursday after police say he ran over a woman with her own SUV in Miami and then fled the scene.

Miami police told Local 10 News that they reviewed surveillance video after the crash and concluded that the driver, Jonah Desaulniers, of Miami Beach, struck the victim “intentionally” and “maliciously.”

According to his arrest report, Desaulniers struck the victim, identified Friday as Mercedes Lopez, 71, just before 5:45 a.m. Thursday in the area of Southwest 27th Avenue and 22nd Terrace.

Officer Kiara Delva, a spokesperson for the Miami Police Department, said in an email to Local 10 Friday that the victim’s Honda CR-V was parked in the area when Desaulniers got into her vehicle.

Delva said it appears that Lopez may have tried to stop Desaulniers from stealing her SUV, at which time he ran her over.

Lopez was pronounced dead at the scene.

According to the arrest report, about five minutes later, Coral Gables police responded to a hit-and-run crash at the intersection of Miracle Mile and Salzedo Street where Desaulniers allegedly struck a pole and bollard. No one was injured in that incident, authorities said.

A short time later, a police officer spotted a brown Honda SUV with front-end damage in the area of Southwest 32nd Avenue and Dixie Highway that matched the description of the vehicle involved in both hit-and-runs, authorities said.

Police said Desaulniers got out of the vehicle and was detained at the scene.

Authorities said after being detained, he was transported to Larkin Community Hospital for medical treatment and was shortly after medically cleared and discharged.

Desaulniers provided a statement to detectives, but the statement was redacted from the publicly released report.

Court records obtained by Local 10 News show that Coral Gables police issued Desaulniers a careless driving citation in 2016, a guilty plea to that same charge, one of several traffic violations he has been accused of over the years.

He was later transported to the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center, where he is being held without bond.

About the Authors:

Amanda Batchelor is the Digital Executive Producer for Local10.com.

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."