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Family Of Man Killed In Alcohol-Fueled DUI Begs For Help

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Lydia Diaz (Source: CBS4)

Lydia Diaz (Source: CBS4)

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South Florida Crime

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The family of man killed in a deadly hit and run accident earlier this year are asking for the public’s help in catching his killer.

It was March 3, 2012, just moments before midnight, when Juan Manuel Velez, 25, died in an alcohol-fueled hit-and-run crash.

Velez was traveling north on NW 27th Avenue, approaching a green light at the street’s intersection with NW 21000 block.  At the same time, Maria Santa Chaison was traveling south on NW 27th Avenue in the left turn lane, approaching the same intersection.

She turned left, in front of Velez, causing the crash.

Velez was transported to Ryder Trauma Center, where he later died. During the investigation, it was determined that Chaison, 49, was driving under the influence, with a blood alcohol content of 0.2 (more than twice the legal limit of 0.08).

“She took my baby,” Velez’s mother Lydia Diaz. “He’s still my baby.”

Overcome with emotion, Velez’s family made an urgent plea to public Thursday to enlist their help in finding Chaison.

“You take the chance of driving a vehicle under the influence and you take someone’s life, but not be responsible for it,” said Juan’s brother Jose Velez. “The only thing we want for closure is for her to come in.”

“I want her to turn herself in,” said Diaz.

The night of the accident, Velez was on his way to pick up his long time girlfriend after work.

“I’m still dealing with it,” said Velez’s girlfriend Shalena Butler, “I don’t know if you ever get over something like that, losing someone that you love so dearly.”

Detained after the crash, Chaison was released by the authorities that night.  Now a warrant is out for her arrest.

“Sometimes we have to proceed with the investigation to make sure we put together a well thought out investigation,” said Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Joe Sanchez.  “In this case, we drew blood and had to wait for the results come back.”

Investigators fear Chaison may have fled to her native Honduras.  Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (305) 471-TIPS.

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