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Suspect In Fatal Santa Rosa Hit & Run Delays Entering Plea

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Investigators at the scene of a Santa Rosa hit-and-run that killed a 4-year-old. (Santa Rosa Press Democrat)

Investigators at the scene of a Santa Rosa hit-and-run that killed a 4-year-old. (Santa Rosa Press Democrat)

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SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) — The Santa Rosa man charged with the death of a four-year-old boy in a crosswalk Thursday evening was arraigned Monday afternoon in Sonoma County Superior Court.

Marcos Lopez Garcia, 22, delayed entering a plea to felony hit-and-run causing death and misdemeanor charges of vehicular manslaughter and driving without a license.

Christopher “Buddy” Rowe was struck by Garcia’s car in a marked crosswalk at the intersection of West Ninth Street and Rockwell Place near Jacob’s Park in west Santa Rosa around 6 p.m., according to Santa Rosa police.

He was walking with his mother Michelle Rowe, 45, his twin sister and a six-year-old sister.

He died the next morning at Oakland Children’s Hospital and Research Center in Oakland.

“He struggled to stay alive during hours of surgery at Oakland’s Children’s Hospital, but his heart finally gave way,” his family said in a media release posted on a website about their son.

Garcia cried as Deputy Public Defender Lynne Stark-Slater informed Garcia of his right to have a preliminary hearing within 10 days. He is scheduled to enter a plea Aug. 30.

Rowe’s parents sobbed as they were consoled by friends before entering the courtroom and again in Judge Kenneth Gnoss’s court.

Santa Rosa police said Garcia was driving west on West Ninth Street and immediately left the scene of the collision.

When police broadcast a witnesses-provided description of the vehicle on the police radio frequency, Santa Rosa resident Leroy Flach heard it and drove to nearby Finley Park where he thought the driver might have fled after the collision.

Flach told police the suspect was removing a decal from the rear of the vehicle and was then picked up by a woman driving in a silver Volvo, Sgt. Rich Celli said.

Flach provided the Volvo’s license to police who found the car in the 500 block of Sonoma Avenue around 7:50 p.m.

Garcia gave police information that confirmed his involvement in the hit-and-run and he was arrested and booked into the Sonoma County jail.

He is being held under $500,000 bail but there is an Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold against Garcia, a county probation officer informed Gnoss Monday afternoon.

Garcia told Gnoss he works at Joey’s Pizza. The manager of the pizza store at 2700 Yulupa Ave. in Santa Rosa did not return a call for comment Monday afternoon.

In the media release, the family said their son will be remembered “as an energetic, curious, active young boy who was also kind, compassionate and caring especially with his twin sister.

“We will always remember his ever-present smile, beautiful steel blue eyes and peace loving nature. The man who stole Buddy’s life from us will one day be free, but we will always carry the burden of losing him forever,” the family said.

The family also said it has received great comfort from the outpouring of support and is particularly moved by the memorial at the accident scene.

“We are glad that pedestrian safety measures that the city needs to make are being brought to the forefront so these tragedies do not continue,” the family said.

Condolences and donations to the family may be sent to the Christopher Rowe Memorial Fund, 1007 West College Ave., .313, Santa Rosa, Calif. 95401.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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