Driver fumbling with phone hit Polk County jogger, fled, deputies say

Mario Lopez-Morales, of Haines City, arrested on 3 charges

Mario Lopez-Morales.
Mario Lopez-Morales.

HAINES CITY, Fla. – A 23-year-old man was arrested Saturday in connection with a hit-and-run crash that left a 17-year-old jogger with a fractured skull, Polk County sheriff's officials said.

Mario Lopez-Morales, of Haines City, was arrested on one count of leaving the scene of a crash with serious bodily injury, one count of leaving the scene of a crash with property damage and one count of tampering with evidence.

Deputies said Lopez-Morales was driving a Ford F-150 when he struck Adam Schumacher, who was jogging along Crest Drive in Haines City, and a parked van on April 3.

Schumacher was taken to Osceola Medical Center with skull and facial fractures and a sprained ankle, deputies said.

Anonymous tips led authorities to Lopez-Morales, whose truck was hidden by pieces of wood, carpet padding and a metal sign, officials said. 

Deputies said they learned that Lopez-Morales, a Mexican national who's in the country as a resident alien and has a valid driver's license, was in Las Vegas for a previously scheduled work meeting. Deputies called him and he confessed to being in the area of the crash during the evening in question to look for his wife, with whom he had been arguing, officials said.

He said when he left the area, he was fumbling with his phone while driving, trying to call his wife, when he struck a person, got scared and left the scene, according to sheriff's officials. He drove to a friend's house, left the truck behind and asked the friend to drive him home, officials said.

Lopez-Morales told deputies that he was making arrangements to fly home and turn himself in to authorities. Deputies met Mario at the Orlando airport on Saturday. He repeated his confession, and was booked into the Polk County Jail, where he's being held on a $13,000 bond.

"Every time we work a hit-and-run crash, we tell the community that we need their help -- this is often the only way we solve crashes where suspects flee the scene. Thank you to the anonymous tipsters who led us to this suspect. We are grateful that Adam will make a full recovery, and that this suspect will be held accountable for hitting and leaving Adam for dead," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.


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