'How do you sleep at night?' Hit-and-run suspect still free after Journee McDaniel's death

Saturday, August 6, 2022
Suspect identified but still free 8 months after girl killed in crash
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Court documents reveal a hit-and-run suspect, Pedro Vargas Garcia, reported his pickup stolen after it was involved in Journee McDaniel's death.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The family of a 7-year-old girl killed in a hit-and-run crash wants to know why the suspect is still not arrested three months after he was identified.

"I want to ask him, 'How do you sleep at night knowing that you took a little girl from her family?'" Tiara McDaniel said with tears streaming down her cheeks.

Her only daughter and the baby of the family, Journee McDaniel, was riding with two cousins as they left her brother's birthday party at Bay Area Raceway.

"She was only 7 years old. She still had a lot of life, and she was full of life," her father Jermaine McDaniel said.

ORIGINAL STORY: South Beltway-area hit-and-run crash leads to girl's death and injuries to driver and boy, HPD says

It was Dec. 11, 2021.

Houston police said a black pick-up truck sped through a stop sign at Cullen Boulevard and Schurmier Road. The pickup truck hit the car Journee was riding in. She died at the hospital.

"This month it will be 8 months. I haven't been the same," Tiara said.

Police say the suspect driver, Pedro Vargas Garcia, ran away from the scene. An hour later, they say he called police to report his truck stolen.

According to court records, during the interview for his stolen truck, he submitted a DNA swab, and in May, that DNA came back as a match to DNA found on his steering wheel airbag that deployed in the crash.

But it took another two months for charges and an arrest warrant to be filed in July, and just days after that Garcia hired an attorney.

"It's been eight months and he gets to run around free. He lied and said somebody stole his vehicle. Y'all find out he's lying and it's like, 'OK,'" Tiara said.

Court records from July 7 even state: "Defendant partying and has a wreck, leaves the scene of the accident where a 7-year-old child dies, and then lies about his vehicle being stolen."

When ABC13 asked Houston police why no arrest has been made, HPD investigators said they are actively looking for this suspect.

They ask that anyone with information on the whereabouts of Pedro Vargas Garcia call Crime Stoppers with an anonymous tip that could lead to a reward of up to $5,000.

Journee's parents say the longer it takes to find justice in her case, the more prolonged their grief, anger, and pain grows.

For more on this story, follow Shelley Childers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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