By Joe Johnson
Authorities continue to search for the driver in a hit-and-run collision that killed an Athens man last year.
It was exactly four months ago Monday that 25-year-old Sanchez Elder was struck and killed by a car that fled the scene.
Elder spent his last moments alive at a friend’s house on Cherokee Road where he and others gathered the night of Nov. 23 to watch the Georgia-Texas A&M football game on TV.
According to Athens-Clarke County police, he was standing outside the house shortly after 8 p.m. when a southbound vehicle left the roadway and struck him before speeding away south on Cherokee Road.
After hitting Sanchez, the white male driver briefly exited the car and quickly returned to the vehicle before fleeing the scene, according to police.
Witnesses described the vehicle as a 2004-06 Nissan Altima, possibly silver in color, according to police.
The Athens-Clarke County police Traffic Enforcement Unit has put in countless hours looking for the driver.
Officers have looked for the car by checking with area body repair shops, and fielded numerous tips and tracked down possible leads, none of which have panned out.
Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information that helps to identify the driver.
“The investigation into the tragic death of Sanchez Elder is still ongoing,” said Lt. Jonathan McIlvaine, the Traffic Unit’s commanding officer.
“Our investigation has been extensive – we have reached out to area body shops, spoken to other local law enforcement agencies, and have used advanced investigative techniques to locate the vehicle and/or driver,” he said.
“At this point, we are relying on the public to partner with us in order to locate the vehicle involved in this crash as well as the person who was driving it,” the officer said.
McIlvaine described the challenges of investigating cases such as the one that resulted in Elder’s death.
“Hit and Run cases are extremely challenging to investigate,” he said. “Oftentimes we must rely on the help of the public in identifying the vehicle and driver involved as there is a high likelihood of little evidence to work with.
“Thankfully, with this case there was evidence left at the scene to point us in the direction of the year, make and model of the vehicle that struck Sanchez Elder,” McIlvaine said.
In an interview with Classic City News, Sanchez’s mother, Carolyn Adams, made a plea to the driver who killed her son.
“I would like the person to come forward and admit they made a mistake,” Adams said. “I’m not the one to judge you – God will do that, but if you have a conscience please come forward and let us have closure.”
Elder, who friends called “Cheese” because of his ever-present smile, was a little person who left large footprints in people’s lives.
He was admired in the community because of his lifelong battle with Achondroplasia, a disorder of bone growth that is characterized by dwarfism and such medical issues as difficulty breathing and eating. He was respected for always showing grit and keeping good humor in the face of adversity.
As an adult, Elder reached the maximum height of 4 feet, one inches tall.
A graduate of Clarke Central High School, Sanchez was a member of a championship Special Olympics team and he belonged to the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.
Police asked that anyone with information about the fatal collision or has knowledge of the suspect’s car to contact Lt. McIlvaine at (762) 400-7089.
Anonymous calls can be made to the Crime Stoppers confidential tip line at (706) 705-4775.