DENVER - Denver police arrested a 25-year-old man early Thursday in the hit-and-run that killed Laura McDermott as she crossed a street with her boyfriend last weekend.
Yet, the mother of Dennis Phillip Esquibel told 7NEWS she had loaned the keys to her Toyota Corolla to her son's girlfriend.
Margaret Esquibel insisted that her son is innocent.
"This was not my son driving that car," said Margaret Esquibel, stressing that her son's girlfriend was driving. The mother only knew the girlfriend as "Irene."
7NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger asked Margaret Esquibel if Dennis told her what happened and the mother said, "No."
Asked how she felt about her son's arrest, the weary mother said, "I'm lost. I'm just so tired."
Esquibel's father, also named Dennis, told Zelinger that police showed up at his home last night.
"He said, 'Dad, they want me. I think they want me.' I said, 'Son, what'd you do now?' He said, 'I didn't do nothing,'" said the elder Esquibel.
Arrest records show that Dennis Phillip Esquibel was booked into Denver jail at 3:48 a.m. Thursday.
His dad told 7NEWS that his son does not have a driver's license and knows not to drive.
At a Friday afternoon news conference, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey said investigators believe Esquibel was driving the car with two female passengers during the deadly hit-and-run. A police report identified the passengers as Irene Warren-Baca and Vanessa Saleh.
Morrissey said he's aware that others are saying someone else was driving, but authorities believe Esquibel was behind the wheel.
Morrissey said his agency plans to formally charge Esquibel early next week with a leaving the scene of accident involving death, a felony that carries a maximum penalty of four to 12 years in prison. Other charges are possible as the investigation continues, he added.
"Obviously, this is something that has an impact on the community, to have a young women struck down in the street like this is something that we all pay attention to. We've had far too many of these hit-and-runs where somebody's either been injured or killed this year," Morrissey said.
"This is one that hopefully will result in the kind of justice that we all seek in these kinds of cases," the top prosecutor said.
A police report on the hit-and-run states that Esquibel was driving a tan 1991 Toyota Corolla south on Broadway at a "high rate of speed" early Sunday moring when it hit the 32-year-old McDermott as she crossed Broadway at Cedar Avenue.
The impact knocked McDermott about 180 feet south on Broadway, according to a police diagram of the collision.
Investigators recovered McDermott's sandal across the intersection from the impact. They also recovered black and brown pieces of the car's trim, a turn signal assembly and a clear piece of turn-signal lens, the police report said.
McDermott's boyfriend, Nate Iler, told 7NEWS he was a step behind her when the car came roaring down the street.
"I briefly turned back to say something to a friend about a concert," Iler said. "She got a few steps ahead of me. That's when they hit her."
Denver Police Chief Robert White and Morrissey lauded police traffic investigators for working around the clocked to make an arrest and members of the community for calling in tips about the hit-and-run.
White and Morrissey also thanked the news media for publicizing surveillance video showing the speeding suspect car moments before McDermott was hit.
Morrissey said authorities received several tips to Crime Stoppers and 911, including one from a passerby who recognized the suspect vehicle that was discovered Wednesday morning in an industrial area of west Denver, near Overland Park Municipal Golf Course.
"That took the case light years ahead. That's what really broke it and allowed us to make an arrest so rapidly," said Detective Mike Farr.
Dennis Esquibel has a serious criminal history, including serving time in state prison.
Esquibel was arrested in Denver on Aug. 8, 2007, on felony drug charges and pleaded guilty to one count of drug possession, according to court records. He was sentenced to three years of Drug Court probation, which gives someone an opportunity for treatment instead of prison time.
Esquibel soon squandered several opportunities. Within a month of being sentenced in the drug case, he was arrested for aggravated motor vehicle theft in Denver, and faced revocation of his probation, said Denver district attorney spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough. Then he flunked out of Drug Court.
In February 2008, he was re-sentenced to three years of intensive supervision probation on both the drug and auto theft cases, to be served concurrently.
By July 2008, he was arrested again for probation violation and was re-sentenced to three years in community corrections, Kimbrough said. After failing his probation again, finally, in December 2009 Esquibel was sentenced to three years in state prison, but given 557 days of credit for time already served.
He entered prison on Dec. 15, 2009 and was released to community corrections on May 26, 2010. He was released on parole on Jan. 24, 2011 and remained free until he was arrested on the hit-and-run.