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Man Is Arrested in Fatal Santa Ana Hit-and-Run

March 21, 2003|Mai Tran | Times Staff Writer

A woman was killed as she walked across a busy Santa Ana street, and the suspected hit-and-run driver was arrested when he returned to the scene a few hours later, police said Thursday.

Joe Del Carmen Rubio, 51, stopped briefly after hitting the woman, then sped away and returned to his Buena Park home, where he made several phone calls before deciding to return to surrender, Santa Ana Police Sgt. Baltazar De La Riva said.

Rubio was being held at the Santa Ana Jail in lieu of $10,000 bail on suspicion of hit-and-run and drunk driving.

Police identified the woman as Maya Tsal, 68, of Fountain Valley. Her death comes two years after her husband was fatally injured while crossing a street in Laguna Beach.

Police said Maya Tsal was jaywalking across Fairview Street near Edna Drive about 7 p.m. Wednesday to catch a bus when she was hit by a pickup driven by Rubio. He stopped briefly, but when her cell phone rang in her purse, he fled, police said. One witness tried to follow but lost him in traffic. Rubio returned about two hours later.

"He came back, but the law requires that you pull over and remain at the scene to exchange information or wait for a police officer," De La Riva said.

Tsal was rushed to a Santa Ana hospital, where she died about 8 p.m.

"I'm so sad and distraught. There's no room for anger right now," David Tsal, the victim's 42-year-old son, said Thursday.

He said he had left his mother at a nursing home for her weekly visit with her aunt and expected her back about 7:30 p.m. "She told me, 'Don't worry.... I'll go to a couple of stores and I'll come home.' "

At 9 p.m., the worried son called police and asked if there had been any accidents near the nursing home. He said his mother hated to walk because she was getting weak.

David Tsal now lives alone in the Fountain Valley home he once shared with his grandparents and parents. His grandparents died five years ago, two weeks apart, of natural causes.

His father, Robert Tsal, was killed in August 2000 when he was hit by a car as he jaywalked on Laguna Canyon Road. The driver was not charged.

"She was everything to me," David Tsal said of his mother. "I feel like I have been cursed."

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