Man who fled after 2007 hit-and-run death returned to Madison after 11 years

September 6, 2018

A man who disappeared from Madison 11 years ago after police said he struck and killed a pedestrian with his van was arrested in Illinois after a drunken driving-related crash there, and appeared in Dane County Circuit Court on Tuesday.

Felix Romero-Ocotl, 41, of Freeport, Illinois, who vanished after Madison police interviewed him about a hit-and-run crash that caused the death of Lucas R. Peerenboom, 20, was arrested on July 4 in Freeport after a crash in which he took out a traffic light, Assistant District Attorney Paul Humphrey said.

According to online Illinois court records, Romero-Ocotl pleaded guilty on Aug. 22 in Stephenson County to drunken driving and was sentenced to 100 days in jail, which was deemed served. Three other traffic tickets were dismissed, including driving without a license. He was then ordered transferred to Dane County because of a warrant for the hit-and-run.

A criminal complaint filed in Dane County in October 2007 charged that on March 14, 2007, Romero-Ocotl struck Peerenboom as Peerenboom crossed South Park Street near Regent Street. Peerenboom, a Tomahawk native who was attending MATC, sustained head injuries and remained in a coma until he died on March 31, 2007.

The complaint states that an auto glass repairman contacted police on April 3, 2007, and said that on March 14, 2007, he replaced a windshield on a van on Catalpa Road, where Romero-Ocotl lived, that was similar to the van police were looking for in connection with the crash.

Police looked at the van and saw that it also had a dent on the hood that appeared caused by a collision with a human pelvis. Romero-Ocotl told police on April 3, 2007, that he had struck a deer, the complaint states.

Romero-Ocotl abruptly quit one of his jobs and stopped showing up at another, the complaint states, and left behind his pregnant girlfriend of seven years and their two children.

Humphrey said, however, that the woman later joined Romero-Ocotl in Illinois and that her name, slightly altered, was on the mailbox at their home. His name was not.

In court Tuesday, Romero-Ocotl was ordered jailed on $100,000 bail. He will be back in court for a preliminary hearing on Sept. 13.

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