At approximately 11:30am, today, Marion County Sr. Deputy Martin Bennett arrested the person believed to be the driver of the hit & run vehicle that sent three people to area hospitals on Monday evening.
The suspect was tentatively identified as a person of interest based upon paperwork found in the Dodge Caravan left at the scene following the crash.
Eleazar Martinez-Ortiz, 20, of Salem was arrested at a berry farm in Molalla, Oregon, following a 3-day follow up investigation by Deputy Bennett.
Deputy David Wagner assisted Bennett in his investigation. Together, they spent several days sifting through evidence in the van to eventually identity Martinez-Ortiz. A document that appeared to be a permanent residence card was located. It had Martinez-Ortiz’s name on it.
The van had been sold several times without having been re-registered by the current owner. Deputies further determined that Martinez-Ortiz was a migrant worker who lived in a migrant worker camp just south of the original crash scene.
When contacted this morning, Martinez-Ortiz was observed to have a fresh cut on the bridge of his nose. It was covered with a bandage.
During a bilingual interview conducted by Detective Nancy Hubbard, the suspect confessed to being the owner and driver of the van. He admitted drinking just prior to the crash. Following the crash, Martinez said he saw a woman lying on the ground, but admitted he hadn’t stopped to help her. Instead, he ran south, removed his bloody clothes and discarded them. The bloody shoes deputies found near the scene were also his.
Martinez-Ortiz claimed he was the sole occupant of the van at the time of the crash, but deputies are still seeking the identity of a possible passenger.
The document thought to be a permanent residence card was determined to be fake.
Martinez-Ortiz was booked into the Marion County Jail on three counts of felony hit & run, two counts of assault 2, tampering with evidence, identity theft, possession of a forged instrument.
Sergeant Craig Cunningham commented, “The speedy resolution of this case was the result of a coordinated effort by many members of our Office. The CRASH team provided the forensic evidence needed for the prosecution; the Detectives assisted with witness, victim and suspect statements, and the Enforcement deputies used their contacts and skills to identify and locate the suspect. We hope this will bring some peace to the victims as they struggle to recover from their injuries”
News Release from: Marion Co. Sheriff’s Office