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Hit-and-Run Death Makes Father's Visit a Tragic Reunion

Family and classmates of the slain Westminster youth mourn while police seek the suspected driver.

June 09, 2004|Susan Anasagasti | Times Staff Writer

Andres Rosales was in the final stages of planning his trip to Southern California to visit his sons and was expecting to leave Mexico by the end of the month.

But when Rosales arrived in Westminster on Sunday, it was to bury his 13-year-old son, Alejandro, who was killed Friday by a hit-and-run driver.

"I didn't get to see him alive," said Rosales, 34, who said that it had been four years since he last saw his boys. He said he and Alejandro's mother separated and he returned to Mexico. "I wanted to see them. I missed them so much."

Westminster Police Chief Andrew E. Hall said witnesses helped identify the hit-and-run driver as Christopher Shawn Werner, 29, whom they believe is homeless.

"He's transient in the Santa Ana, Huntington Beach, Westminster, central Orange County and west Orange County areas," Hall said, urging anyone with information to come forward. "He tends to live at friends' houses or nearby motels."

Detectives said Werner was driving south on Edwards Street about 3 p.m. when he struck and killed Alejandro, a Stacey Middle School student.

Alejandro was crossing Edwards Street at the San Diego Freeway overpass on his way home from school. He was taking a common shortcut across Edwards, but he was not in a marked crosswalk when he was struck.

Witnesses told police that the car was a dark green Lexus. It was later found abandoned in a nearby neighborhood. The car's owner told investigators that the Lexus had been loaned to Werner, who matched the driver's description given to police. Werner, Hall said, had previously had his license suspended but would not say why.

About a dozen other children walking home from school witnessed the accident, police said.

"It's been a very difficult experience for the children," Hall said.

A makeshift memorial of flowers, balloons, candles and pictures of Alejandro marks a spot near the where Alejandro was struck. Classmates displayed their grief through a collection of handmade cards.

Alejandro's parents remember him as a top student who liked to laugh and to play basketball and soccer with neighborhood friends. "He was letting his hair grow because he wanted to have Jamaican braids," said his mother, Sonia Raigoza. "He was very good-looking. Everybody loved him." Alejandro's sister, Ciomara Garcia, 17, recalled the times Alejandro would joke around. "He was a troublemaker, but I still loved him. He was a good kid," she said. "He put an ankle bracelet on his head once and told everyone it was a hat. That's the kind of thing he did that kept everyone laughing."

Investigators Tuesday urged parents to remind their children kids to use care when crossing the street.

"It's important to remind your children to use the sidewalks and crosswalks," Hall said. "Not crossing at a crosswalk may seem convenient, but the consequences can be tragic."

Anyone with information about the accident or Werner's whereabouts is asked to call the Westminster Police Department at (714) 898-3315.

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