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Despite sister's claims, police stand by investigation in fatal hit and run

Ruth Escobar

Ruth Escobar

Gwinnett County police are standing by their investigation into a fatal Norcross hit and run — even after their primary suspect’s sister claimed she was the one behind the wheel.

A preliminary hearing was held Thursday afternoon for Ruth Escobar, a 50-year-old Norcross woman charged with hit and run and vehicular homicide in connection with a fatal crash on April 13. Typically a mundane fact-finding mission for attorneys on both sides, the court appearance took a strange turn when defense attorneys called Escobar’s sister, Esther Escobar-Gomez, to the stand.

Escobar-Gomez proceeded to tell the court that she had been the one behind the wheel that day.

Gwinnett County police said Friday they will be investigating Escobar-Gomez’s statements, but they have their doubts.

“As far as GCPD is concerned the charges stand as they are and will be addressed in court,” spokesman Cpl. Jake Smith said. “The charges were obtained using evidence that still stands and has not been disproved.”

Thursday’s hearing was suspended until May 22 after Escobar-Gomez declined to answer further questions. She had not hired an attorney prior to her statements, and it was unclear Friday if she had done so.

Escobar remains in the Gwinnett County jail and, as of Friday, her sister had not been arrested or charged with any crime.

During Thursday’s hearing, Gwinnett County Police Investigator Timothy Corradino testified that 85-year-old Kanaiyalal Patel was crossing Norcross’ Kings Ridge Drive when a maroon Ford F-150 ignored a stop sign and hit him. Patel later died and the truck, driven by a Hispanic woman, fled the scene.

A witness and his 14-year-old son followed the truck, which was registered to Escobar’s nephew (and Escobar-Gomez’s son). Joel Escobar, the truck’s owner, reported the vehicle stolen but police arrested his aunt shortly thereafter. The 14-year-old boy later identified Ruth Escobar as the driver.

Bill Kitchens, Escobar’s attorney, has said the family maintained all along that Esther Escobar-Gomez was the driver that day, and that the latter had been flown back from California after fleeing. The sisters are similar in appearance.

Attempts to reach Kitchens were not successful Friday. It was unclear if he and co-counsel Glenn Cooper would attempt to get their client out of jail on bond prior to the hearing’s conclusion in May.