TRAVERSE CITY — The case against a driver accused of running after hitting and killing a 71-year-old pedestrian moves forward.
Daniel Sanchez Castillo, a 35-year-old from Detroit, waived a preliminary examination before Judge Robert Cooney Thursday morning. It means his case — one count of failing to stop at the scene of an accident causing death — moves to 13th Circuit Court and attorneys will prepare for trial. Castillo is noted as a fourth-time habitual offender stemming from a list of convictions in his Wayne County home — a classification that, if he’s deemed at fault in the crash, could net a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Castillo’s Attorney, Wright Blake, declined to comment on his client’s defense. He and Prosecutor Kit Tholen both said they felt the case was ready to move forward without a prelim.
Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Randy Fewless previously said Castillo drove that evening under a suspended license, and that investigators believe drugs and alcohol were factors in the fatal crash. Castillo was sentenced for drug possession downstate just days after the hit-and-run, 3rd Circuit Court records show, and given two year’s probation.
Investigators say the Castillo was headed west on U.S. 31 North near Four Mile Road as Sham Sunder Suri and his family, vacationing from Ohio, waited at the busy road’s curb. They’d just finished a meal at Ruby Tuesday’s, according to case reports, and were crossing back to their hotel.
Traffic was busy and streets bustled with crowds leaving the National Cherry Festival on the night of the crash, especially in the wake of a canceled fireworks show. Family members stopped and waited in the turn lane for westbound traffic to thin, the reports state.
Suri kept walking.
Witnesses would tell investigators the 71-year-old stepped out just feet in front of Castillo’s silver Chevy Equinox. The road was dark, a crash report notes.
The driver didn’t stop.
Instead, investigators said the Equinox struck Suri and kept going before pulling off into a nearby parking lot. The driver — which several witnesses identified to investigators as Castillo — got out of the car and was confronted by passersby before running from the scene.
His car, which sported a broken light and front end damage, was left at the scene.
Suri was pronounced dead hours later at Munson Medical Center.
Case reports obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show Castillo called his brother, 20-year-old Christopher Castillo II, for a ride and the pair later fled the region.
The younger Castillo has been charged as an accessory to a felony. He appears in court for a preliminary exam Oct. 29.
Daniel Castillo remains lodged in Grand Traverse County’s jail on a $50,000 cash/surety bond.
See updates at www.record-eagle.com.