Police identify suspect in fatal Turlock crash

local@modbee.comNovember 29, 2012 

— Police have identified a suspect in a fatal crash that killed a Delhi teenager earlier this month.

Investigators are looking for Jose Jesus Aguilar, 19, of Delhi. They believe he was driving a Chevrolet Malibu that left a Marshall Street parking lot as a police officer entered it in the early morning hours of Nov. 3, then sped down Lander Avenue.

The driver lost control of the car, which spun, hit a tree and came to rest against a house. Passenger Taylor Vessel, 18, was partially ejected. She died within minutes, police said.

The driver, believed to be Aguilar, ran away. Police contacted the woman who owns the car, but she and other witnesses were not forthcoming, investigators said.

Family members of Vessel said she had planned to spend the night with a friend in Modesto, then go to San Francisco the next day.

Vessel, a student at Merced College, studied criminology and was trying to decide between a career in criminal justice and crime scene investigation, according to her mother, Toni Garcia.

Garcia didn't know why her daughter was in Turlock that night and expressed frustration that people believed to be Vessel's friends are not cooperating with police.

Police earlier released images from a surveillance video taken at a convenience store that night of a man and the woman who owns the car, hoping to identify the suspect. They don't believe anyone else was in the car with Aguilar and Vessel when it crashed.

Turlock police Sgt. Stephen Webb said Thursday that investigators "did have some people come forward" and they were able to identify Aguilar. He said Aguilar had previous encounters with law enforcement in Merced County, though he did not have details on his record.

Police described Aguilar as 5 feet, 8 inches tall and 180 pounds. He has long black hair, usually braided in a ponytail. He has four dots tattooed under his left eye and one dot under his right eye.

Investigators ask anyone with information on Aguilar's whereabouts to call (209) 668-1200.

Bee Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at pguerra@modbee.com or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter, @pattyguerra.

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