Mesa student dies after hit-and-run accident
Shayla Durrett and Sean Campbell
November 7, 2006
Filed under News
A motorist accused of killing 19-year-old Mesa student Whitney Young was arrested early Thursday morning.
Young died shortly after on Thursday afternoon after suffering severe brain trauma from the hit-and-run accident on Sunday morning.
“Mesa is really saddened by the loss of Whitney Young,” said Adela Jacobson, Dean of Student Affairs. “We knew it looked grim, but we had hope of all hope that she would survive. She had a bright future ahead of her. This was just a shock.”
Eric Joseph Leeman, 20, was arrested Thursday morning at his home near the SDSU campus.
According to 10news.com, a police officer driving in the neighborhood spotted a burgundy BMW like the one that was suspected in the hit-and-run.
The police verified that it was the vehicle involved by comparing broken-off auto parts that were left at the scene to the damage sustained on Leeman’s car.
According to police, Leeman’s roommates told detectives that Leeman was at a party the night of the accident and was a frequent drinker.
According to police, Leeman admitted to being involved in an accident on Sunday morning, but claimed he thought he had hit an animal. He denied drinking that night.
Leeman could possibly face charges of felony vehicular manslaughter, according to police reports.
According to police reports, the vehicle struck Young at 3:15 a.m. on Sunday morning while she was crossing Montezuma Road and Rockford Drive with a group of friends.
Young had been unconscious and in a coma at Scripps Mercy Hospital since Sunday.
Young’s family released a statement Thursday:
“We are heartbroken over the death of our precious daughter Whitney. Her death is a senseless tragedy that has taken the life of this beautiful young woman who had her whole life to live. It has devastated our family. We ask that our privacy be respected on this darkest of days.
“We want to thank the wonderful doctors, nurses, and staff at Scripps Mercy Hospital. They helped Whitney fight a valiant battle for her life over the last 4 days. Unfortunately the damage to Whitney’s brain was just too severe to survive.
“We also want to thank the San Diego Police Dept. and the other agencies involved” in arresting the suspect.
“Lastly, we want to thank the Crime Stoppers program and the media for the excellent job they did in covering Whitney’s tragic story and getting the word out, which increased the chances of capturing the hit-and-run driver.”
Young began attending Mesa this fall and was planning to transfer to SDSU. She wanted to become a teacher.
The Mesa Student Affairs Office, with the help of the Associated Student Government, hung yellow ribbons on Mesa campus trees Thursday afternoon before news of Young’s passing was made public. There are plans to have a sympathy card signing for the family in front of the cafeteria on Friday between 10 a.m. and noon and again from 1 to 2:30 p.m.
Jacobson said that Mesa is planning to establish a scholarship in Young’s memory for students who are hoping to become teachers.
For students and staff members seeking support, Mesa counselors are on hand in Room I-430 or can be reached at (619) 388-2672. In addition, Mesa College Student Health Services, located in room L-504, can be reached at (619) 388-2774.