Passenger in alleged hit-and-run car says she didn't know they'd killed someone

Suspect's mom filed report after car was found

DENVER - A woman who was in a vehicle suspected in a fatal hit-and-run told 7NEWS she didn’t realize they’d killed someone until seeing the news the next day.

“I wasn’t hurt, but it has traumatized me,” Vanessa Saleh said. “It was like a nightmare.”

Dennis Esquibel, 25, is accused of being behind the wheel of the 1991 Toyota Corolla that hit and killed Laura McDermott, 32, while she was crossing Broadway at Cedar Avenue early Sunday morning. The impact knocked McDermott about 180 feet south on Broadway, according to a police diagram of the collision.

Saleh told 7NEWS that Esquibel and Irene Warren-Baca picked her up around 10:30 p.m. Saturday and they went to the Funky Buddha. She says she was sitting in the back seat of the Toyota when they left around 12:30 a.m.

Dennis Esquibel’s mother previously told 7NEWS she had loaned the keys to her Toyota Corolla to her son's girlfriend, whom she identified only as "Irene."

Margaret Esquibel insisted that her son is innocent.

"This was not my son driving that car," she said, stressing that her son's girlfriend was driving.

When 7NEWS told Saleh about Margaret Esquibel’s assertion that Irene Warren-Baca was driving, a crying Saleh said, “It wasn’t her.”

Esquibel made his first appearance in court Friday.

He’s being held on $100,000 bond for investigation of failing to report an accident involving death and reckless vehicular homicide.

After the court hearing, Esquibel’s family told reporters that Dennis doesn’t deserve the harsh treatment he is getting online.

“He’s not a horrible person,” said Dee Dee Esquibel, the suspect’s sister. “Please, please, please stop calling him names and saying that he needs to burn in hell because he doesn’t deserve it.”

The Esquibel family extended condolences to McDermott’s family, and said they too are hurting.

Esquibel's family are trying to come to terms with the allegations against their loved one.

“We don’t know for a fact who was driving,” Dee Dee Esquibel, Dennis' sister, said.

“If Dennis had been driving, he’d have cuts and bruises,” said Dennis Esquibel, Sr., the suspect’s father.

7NEWS asked the family about the car and whether it was stolen.

“No, it went to her to borrow,” Dee Dee Esquibel said. “That’s all we know.”

7NEWS obtained a copy of a stolen vehicle report filed by Margaret Esquibel at 10:32 a.m. on Sept. 26. In the report, she said the vehicle was stolen sometime between 3 p.m. Sept. 21 and 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 26.

The hit-and-run occurred early Sept. 23.

Police found the car around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26. It had been abandoned in an industrial area of west Denver, one block north of Overland Park Municipal Golf Course.

A Statement of Probable Cause for Esquibel's arrest was completed by Officer David Washecheck. According to the document, Esquibel agreed to discuss the hit-and-run after being advised of his rights.

The suspect later admitted that he was the driver of his mother’s vehicle at the time of the fatal collision and that his girlfriend was a passenger in the vehicle at the time,” the document said.

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