Reward grows to $11,000 for info in death of hit and run victim - WNCT

Reward grows to $11,000 for info in death of hit and run victim

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By Kristen Hunter

GREENVILLE, N.C. - The reward to find the driver who hit and killed a 20-year-old college student has gone up since Friday.

Austin Baeza's parents tell 9 On Your Side, "Euro Motor Cars" in Maryland is offering $3,000, bringing the CrimeStoppers reward to more than $11,000.
     
Friday, Greenville businessman Brent Lee donated $2,000. He doesn't know the Baeza's, but told us, as a parent, he could relate to their heartbreak.

"I was reading the paper the morning after it happened and it really just touched me because I have two sons myself and I thought what if that was my son laying on the side of the road like that, and how could someone just leave, and leave them there to die," said Brent Lee, donated money.

Baeza died after he was hit by a car on the side of Highway 33 near Memorial Drive in Greenville in August.
     
He was a student at Pitt Community College.
     
Call Pitt-Greenville CrimeStoppers at 252-758-7777 if you have information in this case.

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GREENVILLE, N.C. - A hit and run victim killed in Pitt County was remembered during a candlelight vigil Thursday night.

20-year-old Austin Baeza, a student at Pitt Community College, was hit last month on NC 33 East, near Memorial Drive.

Baeza's family is working to keep his memory alive, and they're encouraging people to come forward with any information.

"We wake up in the middle of the night with things running through our head and scenarios. It's the not knowing that's eating us from the inside," said Austin's father Alex Baeza.

"We're here to beg for the public's mercy and to help us because we know nothing but the end result, that our son it gone," said Austin's mother Nicolette Baeza.

According to the Pitt County Sheriff's Office, the vehicle involved in the incident was likely a Chrysler vehicle, possibly Jeep or Dodge. It may have damage to the front headlight and might be missing a mirror or antenna.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crimestoppers at 252-758-7777. There is a $5,000 reward.

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GREENVILLE, N.C. – Crimestoppers is offering up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest in the fatal hit and run that killed Austin Baeza.

As Baeza's family prepares to bury their 20-year-old son, investigators continue to search for the person responsible for his death.

Baeza was killed early Saturday morning. Now his family is trying to piece together what happened. They talked with 9 On Your Side’s Kristen Hunter about the hours leading up to his death and their quest to find who is responsible.

Austin had dreams of one day becoming a sportscaster. But now his face is on the news for a different reason. The Mooresville native died early Saturday morning. Someone found his body in a ditch along Highway 33 West in Pitt County.

"The only people out at that time of night are either drunk or really tired. My husband told him get off the road you're going to get hit and unfortunately those words rang completely true,” said Austin’s mother, Nicolette Baeza.

Nicolette says her son decided to leave his house on East Third Street in Greenville to go for a walk and clear his head. He moved to the city two weeks ago and wasn’t familiar with his surroundings.

A little after two Saturday morning, Nicolette says Austin’s calls started coming in. He was lost and wanted to come home.

Austin's parents asked him to name any sort of landmarks he was coming across. And at some point, they believe he came to Wellcome Middle School.

"He didn't realize it was W-E-L-L come Middle School. So he just took it as sort of a salutation rather than the name of the school and we do know that he was at least, hopefully in the parking lot of the school,” said his aunt, Shannan Adler.

9 on your side mapped out some of the routes that Austin may have taken on Google and it says it would have taken him roughly two hours to get from his house to Wellcome Middle School and back to Highway 33.

His family figures someone had to have seen him during that time. Authorities are searching the school’s surveillance cameras for clues but so far they’ve come up empty. Now the family has launched their own investigation. Adler says she’s even called all the body shops in the area.

And until the family finds the person who is responsible, they won’t stop.

"The only thing I ask is that the public please help us because this person was a coward and they left my first born, my child, in a gutter and just drove off. You know, he was alone, he was lost and they just took him from us,” said Baeza.

Investigators say they are looking for an older model gray Chrysler, possibly a jeep or dodge. It should have damage to the right front headlight and passenger mirror. The family is asking body shops in the area to keep alert for the next several months, because the car would not pass North Carolina inspections.

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GREENVILLE, N.C. - Troopers are looking for a car they believe will lead them to a hit and run suspect.

Autopsy results show 20-year-old Austin Baeza died after being hit by a car early Saturday morning in Greenville.

9 On Your Side talked with Baeza's mother.

She tells us she was talking on the phone with him just before the accident.

She says Austin, who had recently moved to Greenville, had gone for a walk and couldn't find his way back home. 

"I said stop walking. Where are you? We'll come get you. But we're four hours and some change away. And he's like no, no I'm fine, I'm walking. And I said no, stop walking. The only people out at that time of night are either drunk or really tired. My husband told him get off the road you're going to get hit and unfortunately those words rang completely true,” said Nicolette Baeza, victim's mother.

Troopers found car parts at the scene.

They say they are looking for an older model gray Chrysler, maybe a Jeep or Dodge, that's most likely missing a front headlight, passenger mirror, and radio antennae.

It may also have windshield damage.

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