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Victim's Friends Hope Reward Leads to Killer

March 26, 1992|PHIL SNEIDERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

GLENDALE — Almost nine months after a hit-and-run accident took the life of Tony Navarres, the Glendale man's devoted co-workers have refused to give up their search for the driver who caused the crash.

Witnesses said a maroon Ford Aerostar, or a similar van, ran a red light and slammed into the 1989 Suzuki Sidekick in which Navarres, 29, and a friend were riding to a fast-food restaurant. The Suzuki flipped over, tossing out both Navarres, who was the small utility truck's passenger, and its driver, Brett Clarke, 31, of Simi Valley.

Clarke survived, but Navarres received massive head injuries and died less than an hour after the crash. It occurred at 4:52 p.m. June 30, at Verdugo Road and Wilson Avenue.

The van did not stop. And in the long months since the collision, no one has been able to provide police with even a partial license number.

"We don't even know the sex of the driver of the van," Glendale police traffic investigator Charles Follett said. "All of these people want you to do something, but you don't have a thread to go on. As time goes on, the trail gets colder and colder. You'd like to solve it for the benefit of the family, but it gets more frustrating as every day passes."

Nevertheless, Jamie Fisher, who worked with Navarres at a Woodland Hills insurance center and considered him her best friend, is clinging to the slim possibility that investigators have overlooked one person who can help identify the missing hit-and-run driver.

A month after the crash, she and other friends knocked on doors and passed out flyers near the corner where the collision occurred. This year, they persuaded a donor, who has requested anonymity, to put up a $5,000 reward for anyone who provides information leading to an arrest and conviction.

The friends returned to the Glendale neighborhood recently to hand out hundreds of new flyers announcing the reward.

Fisher, 21, of Van Nuys, said the effort has helped her cope with the painful loss. "It feels better to be doing something," she said. "We're hoping that maybe this will get people talking about it again. Maybe whoever did it will realize we're not resting on this."

Cyndy Barr, 21, of Woodland Hills, another co-worker, added: "If this had happened to Jamie or anyone he was close to, this is the kind of thing he would have done. So we're just paying our dues back to him."

Fisher and Barr are UCLA juniors who work part time at the Prudential Insurance regional office in Woodland Hills. Navarres, who processed hospitalization claims, was the leader of about 15 employees who socialized regularly outside the office. His friends called him "the godfather" of this makeshift family.

When Fisher began working for Prudential as a 16-year-old high school student, Navarres quickly helped her feel at ease in the intimidating big-business environment. He introduced himself and invited Fisher to join co-workers at a weekend volleyball party.

As they became friends, Fisher learned that Navarres, who grew up in Westlake Village and graduated from Newbury Park High School, was a voracious reader interested in politics, history and the environment. He was an avid photographer and athlete. His co-workers have dedicated this year's company softball league season to Navarres.

Fisher said he served as "a philosopher, a psychologist and a brother" to his friends. "He would give you advice about what shade of green looked best on you or what kind of tax forms you should fill out," she recalled.

The accident victim's father, Peter Navarres of San Dimas, said he is touched by the co-workers' campaign. "They loved him so much," the father said. "They're doing this because he was always there for them."

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