Patterson Police Services on Friday morning arrested a suspect in the felony hit and run accident that occurred around 9 p.m. on Friday, May 31. Abel Edward Lemas, 51, of Modesto, was booked into the Stanislaus County Jail on a charge of felony hit and run.
Lemas, who was arrested around 9:30 Friday morning at Downey High School in Modesto, was not listed as being in jail late Friday. No explanation for his presence at the high school was given; whether that is his place of employment has not been released.
The accident, which police have said occurred in the vicinity of Highway 33 and South First Street, ended with the vehicle in a ditch. By the time law enforcement arrived, the driver had allegedly fled the scene.
The female passenger, 57, was not immediately believed to have been injured. However, the case is now being handled as a felony because it was later determined that injuries were involved.
Rumors on social media and elsewhere about the crash have been swirling since the incident; there has even been talk of a coverup.
Reached at home this morning (Saturday), Patterson Police Chief Marc Nuno asked the public to be patient.
“Any investigation is important,” he said, “and we are not going to jeopardize the sanctity of any case by rushing it because people want the answers yesterday. Let us do our job. We are transparent, and in the end, everyone will have the answers, but we will not jeopardize our case” in the meantime, because the public is clamoring for information, he said.
Interest in this case has been very high, especially since Lemas, who has what Nuno described as a "criminal history," was arrested on Friday.
His arrest came less than 24 hours after the Irrigator posted his picture online at Nuno’s request. The community responded by sharing the Facebook post more than 60 times, and members of law enforcement were in communication with Lemas less than 12 hours after the post went up.
Nuno thanked the community for their assistance in helping law enforcement make contact with Lemas.
While announcing Lemas’ arrest, the Police Chief indicated that the investigation is ongoing, sparking further speculation about the case.
Nuno said this morning that his department is working to build the case before submitting it to the DA’s office. “We are gathering further evidence for prosecution,” Nuno said, adding, “all parties involved will be looked at, and if there’s any criminal conduct involvement, with anyone, the evidence will be turned over to the DA’s office for review and possible prosecution.”
Nuno also confirmed that his department is working on DNA evidence, but said it could take “several months” for any match to come back. They are looking at video surveillance as well, he said, and “possibly even cell phone evidence.”
Asked if he could confirm or deny that City Councilmember Cynthia Mathews-Homen was involved in the accident, he responded, “Not at this time.” The Irrigator has been unable to reach Homen at email addresses on file.
Nuno also declined to say what any possible charges might be.
The Irrigator is following this case closely, and will post further updates as the situation develops.