Lau Van Huynh

A man authorities believe hit 22-year-old Simon Chavez, who was walking in a lane of Highway 101 early in the morning on January 15, pleaded no contest to felony hit-and-run Thursday.

Lau Van Huynh — who has been in jail since his arrest on January 26 — will serve up to a year in County Jail and be placed on three years of felony probation. His sentencing will be April 4.

The vehicle that police believe was driven by Huynh, 78, didn’t stop when it struck Chavez. Damage from the vehicle was found at the scene. CHP officers were able to track Huynh’s car back to the Chumash Casino, where they said Huynh and his wife spent 13 hours before driving back to their home city of Murrieta.

During a bail hearing, CHP officers outlined how they believed Huynh and his family tried to mislead authorities during their investigation. When CHP officers attempted to contact Huynh at his home, Huynh’s daughter answered the door but allegedly denied that she knew him. She also denied knowing anything about a white Hyundai. But walking away from the home, the officer apparently spotted the Hyundai through a garage window. A search warrant was issued, and the vehicle was seized.

Prosecutor Sanford Horowitz said the car had damage consistent with the collision in Santa Barbara, and the vehicle, despite having been washed, still had human hairs lodged in parts of the exterior.

DA Joyce Dudley said those who know Chavez are devastated by the tragedy. “Hit and runs causing injury or death are on the rise,” Dudley said in a statement Friday. “We all must be vigilant and make sure all drivers can, and do, remain focused on driving, because as we have seen too many times, cars can become deadly weapons.”


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