Suspect in pedestrian’s death told Palm Springs police he thought he’d hit a shopping cart

A man charged with fleeing the scene after he struck and killed a pedestrian last year told Palm Springs police he thought he had only hit a shopping cart, investigators say.

But a woman who was at a gas station about 50 yards away told an officer she heard a loud crashing and slapping noise, then heard groaning from the man who’d been hit, identified in court papers only as “David J.”

The woman said she saw the vehicle reverse and stop briefly before quickly driving off, and she told police she believes the driver knew he struck someone.

Cody Jay Hamilton, 28, is charged with a felony count, hit-and-run resulting in death, and pleaded not guilty Tuesday at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, according to court records. His next court appearance was scheduled for Nov. 6.

On July 29, 2022, Palm Springs police were called to the scene where a pedestrian had been hit near East Ramon Road and El Placer Road.

The victim died from his injuries a week later, Aug. 5, 2022, at Desert Regional Medical Center, according to court papers.

Police said investigators recovered parts at the site and watched video surveillance footage that showed the car that hit the victim was a dark sedan. After a lengthy investigation and a tip from the public, the car was found at a home in Cathedral City, and police accused Hamilton of being the driver.

The Riverside County district attorney filed charges in July 2023. And on Aug. 10, 2023, more than a year after the collision, an arrest warrant was issued for Hamilton. Police said they found and arrested him two weeks later in Cathedral City.

According to court papers, Hamilton told police he was driving westbound on Ramon Road at around 3 a.m. when he struck what he thought was a shopping cart in the roadway.

Hamilton added that he kept driving until stopping on El Cielo Road to check his vehicle for damage, but did not report it to police or his insurance, and did not go back to the scene of the collision because “he was running late to work,” according to court papers. Police said Hamilton only told his mother about the collision when she questioned him about the damage to his car later that day.

According to police, the community’s response to the department’s efforts to gather more information was “remarkable” as a tip helped investigators with the case.

According to inmate records, Hamilton was released from the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning on Aug. 25 on a $75,000 bail bond. He has no previous felony convictions in Riverside County.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Palm Springs hit-and-run suspect said he thought he hit shopping cart

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