By Joe Johnson
Beth Elaine Buchanan was a 23-year-old PhD student at the University of Georgia living in Athens when her promising young life was cut short by a drunk driver.
Beth was driving her mother to the airport on Feb. 13, after having enjoyed a visit by Julie Buchanan, but when her car was nearing Winder on Georgia Highway 316 it was struck head-on by a vehicle being driven in the wrong direction by Cesar Raudales Macias.
Beth died from her injuries and Julie managed to survive her critical trauma. The elder Buchanan had taken off from her job as a dean at Fresno State University in Beth's home state of California to spend time with her daughter.
Macias also survived the crash and after his blood was found to have a blood-alcohol content of .24 percent the Barrow County Sheriff's Office was set to charge him with first-degree homicide by vehicle. The suspect reportedly has a history of DUI arrests.
However, when deputies went to take Macias into custody, the 27-year-old Athens man had already fled from the hospital.
In fleeing, the drunk-driving suspect left in his wake grief and sorrow among Beth's friends and loved ones who mourned the loss of an exceptionally kind and intelligent young woman who had a keen wit and a passion for helping others.
Beth had been extremely happy in Athens, where she lived with her cat, Boba, and was in a relationship with Asa Julien, who also was a UGA PhD student.
Dr. Eden King, a professor at Rice University in Texas who became Beth's research mentor recalled the late student as someone who significantly impacted others.
“It sounds so cliché, but she’s just a light. Just this beautiful human. So thoughtful. Quiet but quietly strong. Kind, generous. She just made every place that she entered brighter,” King said.
Beth went on to pursue a PhD in Industrial-Organizational Psychology at UGA, where her research interests centered on lower-income workers, particularly with respect to work-family balance, employee well-being, and gender. She was flourishing as a researcher and graduate student and was nearing the end of her second year in the program at the time of her death.
Nine months later investigators continue to investigate the fatal collision and the Barrow County Sheriff's Office recently asked for assistance from the public for information about the case:
On February 13, 2023, Deputies responded to University Parkway in the area of Patrick Mill Road SW in reference to a head-on vehicle collision. Once on scene deputies located a female who was unresponsive, she was transported to the hospital. The victim however was pronounced deceased.
Detectives are searching for information on the whereabouts of Mr. Cesar Raudales Macias, DOB 1997. Macias is wanted in connection with this homicide investigation. He is described as a Hispanic male, 5’8’’, 165lbs, black hair and green eyes. If you have information about the suspect or his whereabouts, please contact Crime Stoppers.
Anyone with information about the case can submit a tip anonymously to the Crime Stoppers Atlanta tip line at 404-577-TIPS (8477), online www.StopCrimeAtl.org or by texting CSA and the tip to CRIMES (274637).