‘Innocent girl’: Victim’s family wants justice after 18-year-old killed in hit-and-run

CHARLOTTE — Charlotte-Mecklenburg police are asking for help finding a cargo van that left the scene after its driver hit and killed an 18-year-old on New Year’s Eve.

Detectives said on Dec. 31 just after 12 a.m., officers were called to North Sharon Amity Road between Central Avenue and Albemarle Road. When they arrived, officers found 18-year-old Mariela Elizabeth Sanchez Gutierrez lying in the roadway.

Paramedics said Gutierrez died at the scene.

Investigators believe the driver of a white Chevrolet Express cargo van hit Gutierrez and left the scene. Police said the driver also didn’t call 911.

Gutierrez’s family said the 18-year-old was new to Charlotte. She had moved from Guatemala in August 2023 to work toward a better life for her family.

Her family just wants to know who killed her and why they took off. They said Gutierrez was leaving work and was just minutes from her house when her life was cut short.

Her sister, Brenda Gutierrez Sanchez, spoke in Spanish to our partners at Telemundo Charlotte.

“We want justice ...to see this person in court,” she said. “We need to know who it was and where they are.”

Her family says Gutierrez was a happy, easy-going, hard working woman who came to Charlotte to work toward her dreams. She wanted to get a home, a car, and a job but her dreams were cut short.

Mariela worked at a Mexican restaurant and was on her way home late Saturday when she called her brothers for a ride from the bus stop. Her older brother, Marvin, said he saw the horrific scene play out in front of his eyes after getting the signal to cross the street.

“She was walking 6 feet in front of me,” he said. “I saw the white van about 60 feet away from where we were. When he saw us, he hit the gas. I yelled ‘watch out, watch out’ but she was hit.”

They said the driver never stopped. Police said the van is believed to have damage to the hood, bumper, and front grill. It is also missing the Chevrolet emblem. It was last seen in the area of Highway 74 in Matthews.

Anyone with information is asked to call Det. Worthy at 704-432-2169, extension 4. You can also anonymously contact Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600 or by clicking here.

“She was just an innocent girl,” Marvin said.

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Madison Carter

Madison Carter, wsoctv.com

Madison is an investigative reporter and anchor for Channel 9.

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