Suspect arrested for hit & run crash that paralyzed Madera mother

MADERA, Calif. (KFSN) -- The family of a hit and run victim in the North Valley is now one step closer to justice.

Authorities have arrested the man accused leaving the scene of the crash on Highway 99 last month, which left a mother of four paralyzed. CHP investigators tracked Donaciano Santos to San Luis Obispo County and arrested him there on Thursday.

The victim, Olivia Alvarez, is getting great care at a rehabilitation center in San Jose and is surrounded by loved ones every day, but she still relies on a ventilator to breathe and is unable to move her arms or legs. Her daughter, Esmeralda Alvarez, tells Action News, "We have our faith that she will be able to recover, but she doesn't have any movement from her shoulders down."

Alvarez suffered those injuries during a crash on northbound Highway 99 near Avenue 12 on September 3. She was driving her 16-year-old daughter home from soccer practice when she slowed for construction traffic and was hit from behind. Officers say Donaciano Santos was driving the car that slammed into her. Good Samaritans helped him out of his vehicle, but witnesses say the 58-year-old walked away from the scene as Alvarez screamed for help.

"It wasn't until later when officers arrived they asked where is the other driver of the vehicle, he was no longer there, and the investigation began from there," said CHP Public Information Officer Gregorio Rodriguez.

Madera CHP officers followed up on leads and then turned to the agency's Investigative Services Unit for support. They learned Santos had a girlfriend with ties to the central coast community of Santa Maria, and that's where they found him on Thursday.

"They took him into custody without any incident, brought him back to Madera County, where he was booked last night by the investigating officer who took the report," Rodriquez said.

Santos is now facing one count of felony hit and run, a misdemeanor for driving without a license, and two infractions. The victim's daughter says his capture is a relief for her entire family, and especially her mom.

"We actually told her about the arrest, and it brought tears of joy to her. At the time she felt like what did she do to deserve that, and I think anyone in that situation would feel that way, especially when the person who caused it just walked away like nothing happened," she said.

Esmeralda Alvarez says she hopes Santos will serve time in prison. She also told Action News her family is thankful for the outpouring of support they've received from the community in the past month since the crash. That includes everyone who has donated to a GoFundMe account that was set up to provide support with medical expenses.
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