Suspect in fatality vanished after judge reduced secured bond

By Russ Lay on April 8, 2015
How did Luis Rodriguez escape justice?
On Jan. 9, 2012, Rodriguez appeared in court for a bond hearing. His attorney, Phillip Hayes, laid out his case to Judge J.C. Cole for a bond reduction.
According to Hayes, Rodriguez was legally in the country under a work visa, had a family and was not a flight risk.
Assistant District Attorney Chrissy Simmons countered that records held by the state showed Rodriguez was not a legal resident.
He arrived in the United States prior to 9/11, when temporary work visas were easier to obtain, but was no longer in a legal status and was eligible for deportation.
Simmons also noted Rodriguez was estranged from his family.
Third of three parts
Most damning, the ADA recounted how Rodriguez had checked himself out of Sentara Norfolk General Hospital after he recovered from his injuries in the accident that killed Joe Story in Kill Devil Hills, failed to inform Virginia or North Carolina law enforcement and had someone take him to the Raleigh-Durham area.
Rodriguez had been charged with two felonies and DUI after the accident at the intersection of Colington Road and U.S. 158 on Oct. 5, 2011.
As soon as the Kill Devil Hills police discovered Rodriguez had fled, they obtained a warrant from Superior Court judge Jerry Tillett and tracked the defendant’s cell phone to a residence there.
Raleigh police and federal marshals took Rodriguez into custody, and deputies from the Dare County Sheriff’s Office traveled to Central Prison in Raleigh to bring him back to Dare County.
Simmons argued before Cole that not only should the bond reduction request be denied, if anything, the bond should be raised.
“I feel like that very seldom am I able to stand here in front of the court and say I have evidence of a flight risk,” Simmons told Cole.
Later she continued, “I believe that your honor — first I would ask your honor to obviously consider his high flight risk based on what happened when he was released from the hospital, and somehow with officers . . . standing outside the door, he was released from the hospital and we were not notified of it.
“Virginia was not aware of it. And we ultimately had to bring in a task force in Raleigh to apprehend him 300 miles from here and were told that his intentions were to return to his home country.”
But Cole reduced the bond to $20,000 secured and $50,000 unsecured for the felonious injury charges, and set the felonious death by vehicle bond to $30,000 secured and $100,000 unsecured.
The total for the two secured bonds of $50,000 allowed Rodriguez to obtain a bail bondsman from Elizabeth City, Matthew Gregory, who collected just $7,500 from Rodriguez for his release.
Although Cole declined to put a monitoring device on Rodriguez as requested by Simmons, he ordered him to stay in his Swan Court home except for work-related travel.
As we now know, Rodriguez fled and has never been relocated.
Even more curiously, it was discovered by the Voice and family members, while going through the case files in 2013, that the office of the late District Attorney Frank Parrish had waived the $50,000 bond liability against Gregory. Supporting documentation said that Rodriguez was in jail the day he was supposed to stand trial, but there was no date on the paperwork.
In late December, 2014, the new district attorney, Andrew Womble, reinstated the bond liability against Gregory, who will now have to locate and return Rodriguez or face paying the remainder of the $50,000 owed on the original secured bond.
Cole would not respond to questions about the Rodriguez case, but he is connected to two other high profile cases in which defendants went free.
In 2004, William Joseph Moore had been under a court order for more than two weeks to avoid contact with Pamela Virzi. Moore was brought to court for violating that order, but Cole dropped the charges.
That same day, Moore went to Virzi’s house and stabbed her in her front yard as she was mowing the grass.
In August, 2013, reggae singer Eek-A-Mouse, who’s real name is Ripton Joseph Hylton, was given a plea arrangement that reduced charges of kidnapping, rape and drug possession to minor misdemeanors.
Instead of serving jail time for those felonies, Hylton was turned over to immigration officials and deported.
This came after the Kill Devil Hills Police Department had worked with the FBI and the U.S. State Department to extradite Hylton from Paraguay and return him to Dare County.
The trial was supposed to take place in Dare County, but Parrish requested the case be moved to Camden County at the last minute and presented the plea deal to Cole, who accepted it and released Hylton into the custody of federal immigration authorities. He was subsequently deported.
While different crimes have different prescribed bonds, consider this comparison:
Rodriguez, whose alleged crimes resulted in one death and two serious injuries, was subject to a $50,000 secured bond.
Yet, on Dec. 24, 2014, two of four suspects charged with numerous counts of second-degree burglary on Hatteras Island saw their secured bonds set at $1,000,000, while two other defendants were placed under $840,000 secured bonds.
All of which only adds to the frustration of the Storie family.