Man who police say confessed to killing pedestrian to appear in court

by: Mark Becker Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

The man who told police he was driving the car that hit and killed a pedestrian in north Charlotte last week will make his first court appearance on Tuesday, but even if he’s convicted, it’s unlikely he would spend much time in prison -- and the mother of another hit-and-run victim says that needs to change.

Victor Mendez turned himself in over the weekend and is charged with felony hit-and-run in the death of Margaret Rutledge, who was hit crossing North Tryon Street.

Police released pictures of the van that hit her, and several days later Mendez approached an attorney who contacted police and arranged for Mendez to turn himself in.

“They seem to be very nice, mind-their-own-business type of people,” said Gloria Jackson who lives across the street from Mendez and his family in east Charlotte.

But Cora Hilliard had a very different view when she heard the story.

“I just sat there and I was enraged.  I was mad that another family has to go through this,” she said as she wore a picture of her son pinned to her blouse.

It was five years ago, almost to the day, that Jamel Hilliard was hit and killed in west Charlotte, and it took two weeks for police to find the car and the woman driving it.

When her case went to court, she was sentenced to five months in prison, and Hilliard said that’s not enough.

“And it's a shock when you go to court and you think you get some kind of justice and it's really not,” she said. 

Hilliard has been on a mission ever since — to bring tougher penalties for hit-and-run drivers, who, unless they have a long criminal record, are not required to spend time in prison.

She has started a petition that she wants to take to lawmakers in Raleigh that will send a message to anyone who thinks about driving away from tragedy.

“Give them something to think about.  You murder somebody and just leave them like they're trash.  That's not right, that's not right,” she said.