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Friends, family seek closure after arrest in fatal motorcycle crash

By Velena Jones, vjones@wisctv.com
Published On: Apr 26 2014 11:24:22 AM CDT
Updated On: Apr 26 2014 12:45:01 PM CDT

Five days after two men were killed in a hit-and-run crash in Janesville, authorities announced an Illinois man is in custody in connection with the incident. Velena Jones reports.

JANESVILLE, Wis. -

The Rock County sheriff said a tip led to an arrest in a hit-and-run crash that killed two motorcyclists.

Sambath Pal, 24, of Park City, Illinois, was taken into custody in Park City, Rock County Sheriff Bob Spoden said Friday. Pal is awaiting extradition to Wisconsin.

Mitchell Vance, 24, and Devin Julius, 18, died after an SUV crossed the centerline and hit the lead motorcycle and the one behind it on Highway 14 in the town of Harmony Sunday night. Detectives asked the public for tips on a suspect vehicle.

Spoden said during a Friday news conference that a tip was received by dispatchers at 9:06 a.m. Thursday from someone who wanted to remain anonymous. The man said he saw a black 2004 Nissan Infiniti QX56 in Park City that matched the description of the SUV sought by detectives with damage matching what detectives were expecting to find on the SUV.

Park City police were watching the residence where the suspect vehicle was spotted. Pal had been identified as a suspect and police detained him as he left the residence, according to Spoden.

The SUV was taken to a crime lab in Milwaukee, Spoden said.

Pal has connections to Janesville and Rock County, Spoden said. He said police believe he was alone in the SUV when the crash occurred.

Pal was arrested on suspicion of two counts of hit-and-run causing death.

"For us to be able to give at least a little bit of closure and at least let them know that we've gotten the person and that ... the wheels of justice will now begin, it was important for us to see that happen," Spoden said.

Family friend Sabrina Taormino grew up with Vance. She said with a suspect in custody a certain void has been filled.

"You wonder, there is an empty feeling," Taorimno said. "You don't have the closure that you need and you're continuously wondering. So it's nice to finally have that kind of closure."

Taorimno also credits the sheriff's department and the community for spreading the word about the crash.

"There were so many people that were sharing so many articles," Taorimno said. "It's amazing to see, I've talked to people all over who have had an eye out for the vehicle and the amount of support the community has put in has been amazing."

Spoden thanked local businesses that helped with the investigation, including a car dealership and an auto parts company that helped identify the suspect vehicle based on the parts left at the scene of the crash. A billboard company also displayed the suspect vehicle as detectives were searching for it.

A funeral for Vance is scheduled Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Foundations of Life Church in Beloit. A memorial ride for Julius will begin 11 a.m. Sunday at Freedom High School and end in Janesville.

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