Local News

Aunt: Hit-and-Run Suspect 'Less Than Human'

Posted April 14, 2008 1:02 p.m. EDT
Updated April 16, 2008 5:12 p.m. EDT

— Police said an unlicensed driver was drunk and operating a stolen car when he struck and critically injured a 7-year-old boy in Johnston County on Sunday.

The driver, Pollo Hernandez Rodriquez, appeared before a judge Monday, and relatives said doctors at Duke University Hospital declared Marcus Lassiter, 7, brain dead.

Rodriquez faces charges of felony hit and run, driving while impaired, driving without a license, driving a stolen car and causing serious injury with a motor vehicle.

"I think he was less than a human," the boy's aunt, Mary Ann Cooley, said. "I think he should get the maximum punishment."

Through an interpreter, the judge and an assistant district attorney explained the charges to Rodriquez. The judge kept his bond at $1 million.

Relatives said Marcus’ leg was broken and he had brain damage. He was not breathing on his own Monday and remained on life support as doctors continued to perform tests, said family members, who remained at his  bedside.

If the boy dies, state troopers said they would bring more charges against Rodriquez. Meanwhile, authorities were working to determine his immigration status.

The arrest brought little comfort to the family, relatives said.

"He's just a very sweet little, happy boy, full of energy," Cooley said.

State troopers said Marcus was trying to cross Heath Road when he was struck. An adult had been watching him and another young child play in the yard, his aunt said.

"He was on the edge of the yard, and the car came by going 60 in a 45, and the man was drunk," Cooley said. "And he hit him, and he got out of the car, looked at everybody and ran."

Police said they arrested Rodriquez after he tried to flee from the scene. Marcus was flown to Duke for treatment.

Residents told WRAL that the speed limit in the area is 45 mph, but motorists often drive much faster. A resident whom WRAL interviewed said he has seen Rodriquez speeding through the neighborhood before.

“I’ve seen him speeding through here. My guess is he's doing at least 60 mph, no less. That’s a little fast for all the houses around this development,” Rob Hamilton said.