POLK COUNTY, Fla. -- Polk County Sheriff's Office have arrested the man responsible for taking the life of a mother and seriously injuring a deputy in a hit-and-run crash that happened Saturday, October 29th.
Around noon on Thursday, November 3, Heartland Crime Stoppers received an anonymous tip about the suspect's truck that might be involved in the hit-and-run crash that occurred around 12:40 a.m. on Saturday, off of westbound SR 60 in Lake Wales between Tiger Lake and Sam Keen Roads.
The PCSO Traffic Homicide Unit responded to Mar Lisa Cove Road and saw a blue Ford F-150 heading down the road, leaving the residential area. They performed a traffic stop on the truck, and began talking to the driver, who was positively identified as the hit-and-run suspect: 71-year-old Charles "Charlie" Lewis of Lake Wales.
Lewis made a full confession. He told deputies he was at a party on Friday night, October 28th, in Indian Lake Estates, where he consumed beers and then drove home. He told them he knew he hit something but didn't know what he hit.
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He expressed remorse at killing Jessica Enchautegui-Otero and injuring Deputy Sheriff Adam Pennell.
"Never underestimate the power of the community," said Sheriff Grady Judd. "Thanks to an anonymous tip, we were able to solve this case, and help bring some closure to these two families whose lives were forever changed by the reckless actions of Charlie Lewis."
“We’re all thankful for the anonymous tipster,” says Sheriff Grady Judd.
There’s not much damage to the vehicle involved but the Sheriff says he’s positive that Lewis was the one responsible because he admitted it.
“Later on in the confession, he said, ‘tell them I’m sorry.’ That’s a little to late,” says Sheriff Judd.
“It certainly makes it easier to convict,” says Kevin Kohl, Defense Attorney with Boswell & Dunlap.
Kohl says that’s not always the case.
“A lot of times it’s difficult putting someone behind the wheel and even if you can identify vehicle, you have to identify who’s driving,” says Kohl.
10News WTSP has learned half of the hit-and-run cases in Florida go unsolved.
And Kohl says they can be hard to convict once they are.
“Location and identification are the hardest parts,” says Kohl.
But when it comes to this case that took the life of a 33-year-old woman and seriously injured a 25-year-old deputy, Sheriff Judd says the suspect will go away for a very long time.
“He’s 71. He will spend the rest of his life in prison as he should,” says Sheriff Judd.
Charlie Lewis will be booked into the Polk County Jail.
He will have a first appearance hearing at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, November 4, 2016. He is being charged with one count Leaving the Scene of a Traffic Crash Causing Serious Bodily Injury, and Leaving the Scene of a Traffic Crash Causing Death, both first degree felonies.
The investigation is ongoing. If impairment can be proven, further charges will be added.