News

Driver in Hollister pedestrian’s death booked for murder

Sarah Villar was killed as she walked with her fiance and dog along Sunnyslope Road.
Tayler Schmitt left a red rose at the site of the accident. Photo by John Chadwell.
Tayler Schmitt left a red rose at the site of the accident. Photo by John Chadwell.
Red crime scene paint and skid marks show the path the car took before hitting the couple. Photo by John Chadwell.
Red crime scene paint and skid marks show the path the car took before hitting the couple. Photo by John Chadwell.
Photo by John Chadwell.
Photo by John Chadwell.
Martinez is being charged with three felonies, including murder. Photo courtesy of HPD.
Vazquez is being charged with three felonies, including murder. Photo courtesy of HPD.

Just after 6 p.m. on June 20 Tayler Schmitt, 33, and Sarah Villar, 32, left their Santana Ranch home to walk their dog on the sidewalk along Sunnyslope Road. According to the Hollister Police Department, as they were approaching Sunnyslope Lane, Manuel Martinez Vazquez, 23, went off the north side of the road, careened across the two-lane road and struck the couple, killing Villar. 

Police closed the road for over two hours between Beverly Drive and Cera Vista Drive while the accident was being investigated. It reopened after 10 p.m.

“He hit me, and I flew over the guardrail into the weeds,” Schmitt told BenitoLink the following morning when he visited the site to place a single red rose near where Villar was killed. “She was further up, and I told her to run and that’s when she must’ve got hit there.”

Schmitt said he doesn’t know how the dog survived. It was running in the street after the car stopped moving.

Schmitt said he and Villar had been together for 10 years and were to be married in two months. The morning Schmitt visited the site, he was accompanied by his mother, Lori Brown. 

According to the HPD booking report, Vazquez was charged with driving under the influence.

Brown said the couple had moved to Hollister in 2017 and that they had attended Gilroy High School together. She came from her home in Roseville to be with her son after the accident.

Schmitt told BenitoLink that he had been taken to the hospital after the accident.

“I’m okay, physically. I’m sore and it’s hard to walk,” he said. “Emotionally, I just don’t know if I’ll ever be the same again.”

Schmitt said Villar was a pediatric physical therapist for Young Interventions, an early intervention and family support agency offering a variety of services across the state.

“She was the sweetest, kindest person in the world,” Brown said. “She took care of children with developmental problems from birth to two years of age.”

Brown said she spoke with a sheriff’s deputy and was told Vazquez would be charged with vehicular manslaughter. District Attorney Candice Hooper told BenitoLink June 21 that she had not seen the report yet, but that she expected Vazquez to be arraigned on June 22.

San Benito County Jail personnel confirmed that Vazquez was booked under three felony counts: DUI with alcohol causing bodily harm, vehicular manslaughter, and murder. This was Vazquez’s second DUI, according to jail staff. 

Brown said Villar’s parents, Monica and Dave Villar, who live in Scottsdale, Arizona, would be arriving in Hollister on June 21.

According to a June 21 HPD press release, the police investigation revealed several indicators of intoxication and a field sobriety test was administered. Vazquez was taken to Hazel Hawkins Hospital for medical clearance and a search warrant was obtained for a blood sample. 

He is in custody at the jail with a bail amount of $1.25 million.

 

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John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a freelance photojournalist. He has many years' experiences as a photojournalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter, and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer, having worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John worked as a scriptwriting consultant, and his own script, "God's Club," was produced and released in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime, which are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]