Authorities have arrested a suspect in connection with a hit-an-run that killed two Janesville men on Easter Sunday, said Rock County Sheriff Bob Spoden during a press conference on Friday afternoon.
Sambath Pal, 24, from Park City, Ill. was arrested Thursday in Park City and has been charged with two counts of hit-and-run causing death. He is currently in custody at the Lake County, Ill., jail in Waukegan, awaiting extradition to Wisconsin.
Park City is a far northern suburb of Chicago located in Lake County, Ill., and about 80 miles east of Janesville.
Around 9:06 a.m. on Thursday the Rock County 911 Center received an anonymous tip about the suspected vehicle that was involved in the fatal crash. The vehicle had been spotted in Park City.
Mitchell J. Vance, 24, and Devin J. Julius, 18, both of Janesville, died after their motorcycles were struck by a black 2004 Infiniti QX56 SUV around 7:57 p.m. on Sunday. Vance was pronounced dead on at the scene, and Julius died at Mercy Hospital in Janesville.
The two were with a group of motorcyclists driving west on U.S. Highway 14. They were following a Toyota Sienna when the driver of the Toyota swerved to avoid hitting an eastbound Infiniti that had crossed the center line.
Spoden said the anonymous caller had information about the Infiniti and said the vehicle had front bumper damage and damage to the headlight and fog light. The sheriff’s department contacted Park City Police and asked them to check the area for the vehicle. Police located the vehicle at a home in Park City.
Spoden said Rock County detectives headed down to Park City to help with the investigation. Spoden said a description of the driver of the vehicle was developed, and it was relayed to Park City Police. While police were waiting for Rock County detectives two male subjects exited the home, and police stopped them.
Pal was one of the subjects that was stopped by police. He was later arrested. The vehicle was seized and transported to the Wisconsin State Crime Lab in Milwaukee where it will later be processed for evidence, and the vehicle parts collected at the accident scene will be compared to the suspect vehicle.
Spoden said the tip received was a welcome surprise, and added the 911 center did a “very good job” in asking the caller questions about the suspected vehicle.
“The information that the 911 center got from this individual was extremely helpful that this was a very strong suspect,” Spoden said. “And then notifying us immediately was a huge part in this. After listening to the audio it was very clear that this person had relevant information.”
Spoden said they would like to see Pal back in Wisconsin within a week, however, if he decides to challenge his extradition it could delay the case. Spoden said Pal was arrested twice in March of 2011 for receiving stolen property, and for retail theft. Pal also had a warrant out for his arrest involving the retail theft, Spoden said.
Cory Volkey, a friend of Mitch Vance, attended the press conference and was putting a decal on his motorcycle honoring Vance when he received a text message that the sheriff’s office had found a suspect.
“It was 1,000 pounds off my shoulders,” he said. “I haven’t slept for four days.”
Volkey said he met Vance last summer, and added he wasn’t with the group of motorcyclists on Highway 14 at the time of the crash, but was planning to meet up with them at the Lions Quick Mart in Janesville. Volkey said he didn’t know Devin Julius, but planned to meet his family on Saturday for a memorial motorcycle ride that will take place on Sunday.
“I honor the person that called 911,” he said. “I would’ve done the same thing. I don’t care if they were my family. It’s not OK. He should’ve pulled over.”