ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, Fla. – It's been nine days since Florida's new law toughening penalties against hit-and-run drivers went into effect.
A St. Johns County man could be among the first in our area to face the harsher consequences that come from Senate Bill 102.
Investigators said an alert driver helped locate the man who hit 53-year-old Robert Louk (pictured below) and then took off in a white Toyota truck. Law enforcement officers began searching for a vehicle that matched the description and located it within a few miles of the scene.
"Within 20 minutes, we identified the suspect vehicle and were able to ascertain where the suspect was and detain him in order to get search warrants for evidence and blood evidence from the vehicle itself," said Sgt. Catherine Payne of the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.
Investigators said Louk, who died Wednesday morning, was found lying unconscious in the roadway on State Road A1A South at Florida Avenue just before midnight Sunday.
Investigators aren't releasing the suspect's name because he hasn't been arrested. They're waiting on blood tests to come back, and they said it could take anywhere from a week to several months, depending on how fast everything can be processed.
"Detectives are confident we have the proper suspect," Payne said.
As investigators wait for the results, they said they hope the new state law will prevent others from leaving the scene of a crime. That new law requires a mandatory four-year sentence for leaving the scene of an accident involving death. If convicted, the driver's license could also be revoked for three years.
"How can you not stop if you hit something?" said Tiffaney Whitley, who witnessed the aftermath. "You have to have known that you hit something."
Whitley told News4Jax that she came out to the accident scene to check the tire marks, to see if the car went up on the curb or if the victim was trying to cross the road, but she found nothing.
"I saw a fire truck, and I saw about five different cop cars, and they were working on a gentleman who was lying in the middle of the road," Whitley said.
News4Jax has learned Robert Louk recently moved to St. Augustine Beach from Lake City and was arrested in February on a battery charge. He was released after serving just one day in jail.
Anyone with any additional information regarding this case is asked to call Detective Jose Jimenez at 904-209-1458 or Crime Stoppers 888-277-8477.