“What made you go off the road?”
In the mind of Kyle resident Molly Pardo, that’s the question a sheriff’s deputy should have asked regarding a truck in the ditch along a dark country road.
Pardo believes the perceived failure of Hays County Sheriff’s Office deputies to ask a driver that question when they found his truck stuck in the mud along Goforth Road Sept. 22 irrevocably changed lives.
The lack of one important query is leading to many more for Pardo, whose boyfriend, Michael Delaney May, 32, of Kyle, was found dead in a ditch hours after he was hit by the pickup truck deputies encountered that night.
As May’s family and friends grieve May’s death, many are also trying to comprehend how authorities allowed Tony Alberto Ponce-Zamora, 22, of Kyle, to leave the scene without much scrutiny.
According to officials, Ponce-Zamora’s failure to notify authorities of an incident when they talked to him that night is the root cause of May’s death.
Ponce-Zamora, 22, of Kyle, was booked into the Hays County Jail Sept. 23 on a charge of failure to stop and render aid resulting in death, a second-degree felony. An Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer was also issued for Ponce-Zamora, according to Hays County Jail Records.
According to a Department of Public Safety spokesperson, authorities were dispatched to Goforth Road two miles east of Kyle for a fatal crash involving a vehicle and a pedestrian.
When authorities arrived on scene, they discovered the body of a man, later identified as May, in a ditch off the roadway. Hays County Pct. 2 Justice of the Peace Beth Smith pronounced May dead at the scene at 8:58 a.m. Sept. 23.
During the course of a crash investigation, Hays County Sheriff’s Office deputies notified DPS officials that they had made contact with the vehicle involved in the incident the night before.
Todd Riffe, HCSO communications officer, said a deputy traveling on Goforth Road drove upon a truck stuck in the mud in a ditch, which became a motorist assist situation.
Riffe said there was no indication to the deputy on scene that the vehicle was in an accident. A passing motorist helped the deputy pull the truck out of the mud.
Riffe said he did not know of any possible language barriers between the deputy and Ponce-Zamora.
Pardo, who was heading home from Seton Medical Center Hays that night, saw a truck in the ditch and law enforcement vehicles.
As she slowed, Pardo said officers were “talking to the guy like it was nothing,” and decided to keep on driving. Pardo was looking for May, who left the hospital before she did to walk home and whom she was planning to pick up en route.
Over the next few hours, Pardo tried to contact May via Facebook for his whereabouts. She reached out to May’s father, who also hadn’t heard from his son.
It wasn’t until 11 a.m. the next morning when officials informed Pardo and May’s friends and family of his death.
Following the discovery of May’s body, an area business owner approached DPS officials with security camera footage that caught a glimpse of the incident.
That, along with a description from deputies, allowed investigators to locate Ponce-Zamora’s truck, a 2008 Dodge Ram pickup, at a home in the 500 block of Cotton Gin Road. The truck had damage to the passenger side headlamp and windshield.
Ponce-Zamora allegedly admitted driving the vehicle and leaving the scene. Authorities said Ponce-Zamora did not inform deputies of the hit-and-run when they talked to him the night before.
Due to Ponce-Zamora withholding information regarding the incident, May was “not given medical attention and died due to his injuries.”
However, Pardo believes more could have been done that night to search for May.
Had questions been asked, Pardo said she feels May could have at least had a shot at survival.
“Why didn’t they do their job and ask questions and why didn’t they look at the truck? It had damage,” Pardo said. “It doesn’t make any sense. He could still be here, but he’s not because they didn’t do what they were supposed to do.”
Ponce-Zamora remains in the Hays County Jail on $50,000 bond. DPS is investigating the incident.
Correction: In an earlier version of the story, we incorrectly reported a deputy being dispatched to the scene of a truck stuck in the mud in a ditch along Goforth Road. Deputies instead drove upon the vehicle stuck in the ditch. We apologize for the error.