Fatal Hit-and-Run Driver in Bethany Says He Thought He Hit a Deer: State Police

Connecticut State Police

An alleged hit-and-run driver accused of killing a pedestrian in Bethany told police he thought he hit a deer on the night it happened back in 2018, according to state police.

State police said they responded to reports of a man laying on the right shoulder of Route 63 northbound in Bethany on November 4, 2018, around 7:30 a.m.

When police arrived, they said they found a man, later identified as 25-year-old Tony Goncalves, laying in the grass off the right shoulder of the road, partially under the guardrail.

Investigators said there was a black shoulder bag in the northbound travel lane near Goncalves. There was also debris in the area that included personal items and motor vehicle parts including dark metallic green fiberglass parts from a vehicle, headlight glass and amber plastic lens. No vehicles were nearby.

After doing some research, state police said they determined several motor vehicle parts that were found at the scene with identifying numbers and letters on them belonged to a 1997-2001 Jeep Cherokee.

Later in the night on November 4, 2018, state police said a man, later identified as Michael Rodriguez, now 26, arrived at Troop I to give information about the accident.

According to state police, Rodriguez said he hit a deer in the same area where the pedestrian was found at 12:30 a.m. on November 4, 2018. He said he was coming home from a brewery in Derby when the incident happened.

Rodriguez also said he did not stop at the scene or report the collision to police because he was driving a green 1999 Jeep Cherokee Classic that wasn't insured or registered and had misused license plates on it, state police said.

Investigators said they also later learned that the vehicle did not have insurance.

Officers later went to Rodriguez's home in Prospect and were given consent to search the vehicle. Police said they observed damage to the vehicle consistent with the debris found at the scene of the collision.

Through DNA evidence taken from the vehicle, investigators said they were able to determine Rodriguez's vehicle came into contact with Goncalves.

Rodriguez turned himself in to Troop I in Bethany on an arrest warrant on Monday. He is facing charges including evading responsibility resulting in serious injury or death.

Rodriguez was released on a court set bond of $25,000 and is scheduled to appear in court on June 1.

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