The Jeep’s missing headlight alerted officers that this was the car from the hit-and-run, as it matched the headlight that had been found at the crime scene. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Issaquah hit-and-run investigation progressing after Jeep discovery

After locating and studying the vehicle used in the crime, Washington State Patrol officers are confident that they will catch the person responsible for a hit-and-run that killed a 21-year-old college student in Issaquah.

At 1:22 a.m. on May 28, Kevin Lozoya — a 2014 Issaquah High School alumnus — and three friends were walking home from a party on 231st Avenue Southeast, when a vehicle struck Lozoya, killing him at the scene. The driver of the vehicle, who is unknown, did not stop.

Five days later, a Washington State Patrol trooper located the vehicle responsible — a 1993 white Jeep Grand Cherokee — down an embankment off of State Route 900, just west of Issaquah.

Matching a broken headlight found at the crime scene — which revealed the make and model of the car — with the missing headlight on the Jeep, detectives “were 100 percent sure” upon finding the Jeep that this was the car they were looking for, according to Trooper Rick Johnson, media relations officer for Washington State Patrol District 2.

Troopers do not believe the vehicle was left at the embankment immediately after the hit-and-run, but surmise that the driver dumped the vehicle a few days after the crime occurred.

Now in State Patrol custody, the vehicle is being studied as evidence to find possible clues. Thirty-two samples were taken from the Jeep for testing.

With the vehicle found, investigators are focused on “trying to figure out who the car belongs to,” Johnson said.

Since the car had not been reported as stolen, investigators believe that locating the owner of the Jeep will bring them closer to finding out who was in possession of the car on the night of the hit-and-run.

“They’re pretty confident they’ll solve it,” Johnson said. “They just don’t have a time frame.”

Unfortunately, in this case, locating the vehicle owner isn’t as simple as running a license plate and looking up the registered owner. After being abandoned in Seattle, the vehicle was impounded on April 16 and sold at auction by Lincoln Towing.

Detectives think that the person who bought the Jeep at auction was a “car flipper” who immediately turned around and sold it to someone else. However, this person did not transfer the car’s title.

The last registered owner of the car, who owned it at the time it was abandoned, was born in 1934. Investigators have ruled him out as the culprit.

On June 13, Johnson said that detectives were that day going to interview the person who bought the Jeep at auction to find out who may have possessed the car most recently.

“Every case has its own anatomy. When it’s a hit-and-run with a vehicle as ambiguously owned as this one, it just can take more time,” Johnson said. He said that officers “want to make sure this is rock-solid” before proceeding with arrests.

Investigators are also re-interviewing the guests at the party that Lozoya had attended. Johnson believes that the key to solving the case may lie with one of the party-goers.

“We’re certain people know what happened … There were a lot of moving pieces at the party,” he said. “We feel there’s someone who knows something.”

The suspect is being sought on charges of vehicular homicide and felony hit-and-run.

Johnson explained that if the person responsible has fled the state or even the country, a fugitive warrant can be put out that stretches outside of the U.S. However, he said that the investigators believe the person is hiding out somewhere in the region.

“They don’t get the sense that the person is gone,” he said.

Anyone with any information should contact Detective Brody Ford at 425-401-7742 or brody.ford@wsp.wa.gov.

“We’ll get the person. I’m confident that we will,” Johnson said. “It’s just a long process.”


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Trooper Rick Johnson examines the Jeep, pointing out where fingerprint samples were taken for testing. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

The Jeep has no license; it had recently been purchased at auction, then resold. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

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