hit and run

Woman Pleads Not Guilty in Deadly Hit-and-Run in Rented Tesla

Courtesy LAPD

A woman who allegedly struck a pedestrian with a Tesla and left him fatally injured in the Pico-Union area last month pleaded not guilty Monday to a felony charge.

Vanessa Gutierrez, 35, of Los Angeles, was arraigned on one count of hit-and-run driving resulting in death or serious bodily injury to another person. She is due back in court on Jan. 29, which a judge is expected to set a date for a preliminary setting that will determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed to trial.

The charge stems from a Nov. 21 crash in which Emilio Perez was struck by a light-colored Tesla Model 3 in the area of Olympic Boulevard and Lake Street.

Perez, 38, never regained consciousness and died at a hospital four days later as a result of blunt force injuries, according to Los Angeles Police Department Detective Moses Castillo. He was homeless and had been estranged from his family for a number of months, Castillo said.

After the crash, investigators released video of the collision and images of the Tesla and another similar car. Someone spotted the vehicle in the 1800 block of South St. Andrews Place in the Harvard Heights area west of Pico-Union, according to Castillo.

By the time police reached the witness, that person reported that a female had arrived and put a cover on the car. The vehicle had been rented, but not by Gutierrez, according to Castillo.

Gutierrez -- who had been identified by investigators as a person of interest in the case -- is believed to be the one who covered the vehicle, the detective said.

Gutierrez surrendered Dec. 4 at the LAPD's Central Traffic Division and was released later that day on $50,000 bond.

Castillo described the woman as remorseful and said she only compounded her trouble when she allegedly left the scene of what may well have otherwise been deemed a non-criminal accident.

The criminal case against Gutierrez was filed Dec. 16.

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