Local law enforcement is investigating two separate fatal vehicle crashes in the area on Saturday for which information is starting to trickle out but are still mostly shrouded in mystery.
Authorities confirmed the identities of the crash victims on Tuesday.
Santa Maria police said 35-year-old Stacia Parlanti of Santa Maria was the woman killed in a hit-and-run crash Saturday night in the area of Mahoney and Black roads.
Early that morning, 18-year-old Derrick Duff Jr. of Bakersfield suffered fatal injuries when he was thrown from the back of a Jeep and run over by several passing cars on southbound Highway 101 north of Highway 166 near Nipomo. None of the drivers who hit him stopped.
A woman who said she was an acquaintance of Parlanti’s said the victim was five months pregnant, but police couldn’t immediately confirm Parlanti’s pregnancy.
Duff’s friends and family have set up a Facebook page in memory of the popular star basketball player at Highland High School in the Kern County city.
Police are seeking the public’s help in identifying the drivers who struck Parlanti and Duff.
Santa Maria police said Tuesday that a Santa Barbara County-issued probation ankle monitor Parlanti was wearing when she was struck helped police pinpoint the precise time she was hit, as it sent law enforcement a signal that the monitor had been removed when it was knocked off in the crash.
The ankle monitor was removed at 9:15 p.m., and also gave the location where Parlanti was later found.
Police were summoned to the area at 9:41 p.m. by a call of a “person down” by the side of the road.
No witnesses to the actual crash have come forward, according to police, although evidence at the scene indicated the suspect vehicle had been traveling northbound on Mahoney Road and continued north after striking Parlanti.
“We have a few witnesses, but nobody who actually saw the collision,” said Santa Maria police Cpl. Robert Prescott.
Prescott encouraged anyone who saw the crash to come forward, noting that he believes someone did see the hit-and-run happen.
“This is how we’re going to have to solve this one,” he added.
Prescott also asked the hit-and-run driver to step forward, or face worse punishment when they are eventually tracked down.
“Anything that they can do for themselves will obviously be to their credit later,” the officer said. “Every moment that goes by, that’s against them.”
An autopsy on Parlanti is scheduled to take place today, Prescott said. He was unable to confirm reports Parlanti was pregnant, but said he also had received that information.
Prescott said the area where the wreck happened is “very, very dark” at night. Investigators believe Parlanti was walking back to the Tanglewood neighborhood where she lived when she was struck.
According to the California Highway Patrol, Duff was riding in the back seat of a Jeep around 2:20 a.m. Saturday with two other friends from Bakersfield in the vehicle when the Jeep drifted into the dirt center divider for unknown reasons. The vehicle crashed into the guard rail before veering back into the southbound traffic lanes and ejecting Duff, who was not wearing a seat belt. Duff was run over by several passing vehicles, the CHP reported, and suffered fatal injuries. The other two teenagers, ages 16 and 17, were uninjured.
The teens were reportedly returning from a spring break trip to Pismo Beach, and drugs or alcohol are not believed to be involved.
CHP Officer J.W. Townsen said Tuesday that officers were continuing to investigate the incident and were still searching for the motorists who ran over Duff.
It was unclear if the drivers knew they’d struck a person.
“It happens. You’re at freeway speeds,” Townsen said of cars hitting someone who has fallen in the roadway. “It’s very difficult for motorists to avoid that initially,” he added.
“It is illegal if you have knowledge you hit an individual,” Townsen said.