A few months ago I wrote a post entitled “Hit and Run.” It was about Jairo Gonzalez-Romero, a young immigrant restaurant worker in NJ who was killed by a hit and run driver.
After two months, a person has been arrested and charged in this case. The full story in appears here in the Bergen Record.
I was also gratified to see that $4000 has been raised to help cover Jairo’s funeral expenses and send money home to his family. I know Waiter Rant readers have donated a portion of that money.
To all the readers who generously contributed to Jairo and his family you have my heartfelt thanks.
I read through this blog years ago, and after something brought it to mind I’ve been reading through all the posts, enjoying it anew.
When I got to this one, I decided to do a little searching to find out what ever became of this hit and run guy, but the link is dead. I searched lots of combinations of his name, “hit and run,” “killed,” and so on, all in vain. The story wasn’t significant enough to merit much attention at the time, and even less so a decade later. Besides whatever memorial his family created back home, this blog may be the only remaining evidence that Jairo ever lived, and the only tribute to his life on the Internet.
I’m glad it’s here.
Former Northern Valley star charged in death of bicyclist
Paul Viole tracked down in Florida
By ERIC HSU, STAFF WRITER
Published: June 11, 2005
A former baseball star at Northern Valley Regional High School at Demarest was arrested at a Florida hotel on a charge of leaving the scene of an accident that killed a bicyclist in Westwood two months ago. Authorities tracked Paul Viole, 27, a onetime New York Mets prospect, to West Palm Beach and charged him Thursday as the driver in the accident that claimed the life of Jairo Gonzalez-Romero, a dishwasher at a Closter restaurant.
The accident occurred about 1:30 a.m. April 9 on Old Hook Road, where Gonzalez-Romero and a co-worker were riding their bicycles home when Gonzalez-Romero, 23, was struck and killed.
Police searched in vain for leads until receiving a tip that Viole, who lived in Westwood, had been in a car accident in early April and left the state, said Lt. Frank Kelaher of the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office.
The trail led to an auto body repair shop in Port St. Lucie, Fla., where workers had recently repaired a black Mercedes SLK 350 owned by Viole.
Police later found Viole and his Mercedes in West Palm Beach. Car parts taken from the repair shop matched those found at the scene of the accident, Kelaher said.
Viole grew up in Demarest and was a standout baseball player at Northern Valley at Demarest and later at Seton Hall University, where he is ranked ninth in the record books for number of relief appearances. In 1999 he was drafted by the Mets in the 12th round.
He had a promising start as a relief pitcher in the Mets’ farm system, pitching 26 shutout innings in the Class A New York-Penn and South Atlantic leagues, But an elbow injury slowed his career and he left the Florida State League St. Lucie Mets after the 2002 season.
Greg Butler, Viole’s coach at Northern Valley, said Viole was a “bulldog” competitor who was a walk-on with the Seton Hall baseball team as a freshman and pitched his way into the rotation after starting as an outfielder.
But Butler, who stayed in touch with his former player, said Viole never quite regained the form he had as a first-year pro, and at the time of the accident was working for a mortgage company in Westchester County, N.Y., and struggling to find direction.
“I think he wanted to move on with his life,” Butler said. “He was at a crossroads, trying to decide what he was going to do.”
Meanwhile, workers at the Harvest Bistro restaurant where Gonzalez-Romero worked said they have raised more than $4,000 through a fund-raising drive to pay for his funeral and to send money to his family in Costa Rica.
Pastry chef Kathleen Brown said workers planned to put up plaques with Gonzalez-Romero’s picture in the kitchen and lobby with names of people who donated.
“We’re still getting checks in the mail every day, people that we don’t even know,” Brown said.
Viole was being held in the Palm Beach County jail and will be extradited to New Jersey, Kelaher said.
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E-mail: [email protected]
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Copyright (c) 2005 North Jersey Media Group Inc.
Bill, I am the detective that investigated the fatal hit and rum. Its a very interesting story, almost the caliber of one of your episodes. If your interested feel free to contact me. Thanks, DSG Rod Fortunat, Westwood Police Department
Rod, I would be interested in speaking but can’t seem to fin your contact information anywhere.