UPDATE: The person who police believe was driving the SUV was “located, interviewed and booked” at the Martin County Jail in connection with the deadly hit-and-run, according to West Palm Beach police.
WEST PALM BEACH – Even before she was killed and her 3-year-old daughter critically injured when they were struck Tuesday by an SUV in West Palm Beach, life had been a series of struggles for Catarina Reymundo Marcos.
A native of Guatemala who immigrated five years to the United States after the father of four of her children died, Reymundo Marcos recently had her request for asylum denied, according to a friend. An abusive relationship with the father of her 3-year-old ended after the man was arrested, then deported. Reymundo Marcos also contracted COVID-19, a situation made even more difficult because she was pregnant with her sixth child after becoming ill.
“Even with her hardships, she did whatever she could to help her kids,” said Juan Bernal Brito, a close friend. “She has a 14-year-old son in Guatemala who wanted to work to help the family. She told him, ‘No, no, no. I am here and I will take care of you.’ She would have given her life for any of her kids.”
West Palm Beach police said that Reymundo Marcos, 34, was standing with her daughter along Pinewood Avenue behind a Honda Odyssey around 3 p.m. Tuesday when the van backed up for unknown reasons, striking them. Instead of stopping, the driver kept reversing, hit another parked vehicle, then drove through the yard of another home, according to police.
Police found a vehicle matching the description less than a quarter-mile away. The license plate appeared to have been removed.
The owner of the Honda has been identified by police as a 39-year-woman. The Palm Beach Post is not naming her because she has not been charged or arrested. Police said the owner does not have a driver’s license.
Reymundo Marcos and her toddler were taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center, where staff realized she was pregnant and performed an emergency C-section. The infant was listed in critical condition as of Wednesday.
The 3-year-old, Jessica Guzman, sustained a brain injury and, according to the family, was scheduled to undergo surgery Thursday.
To add confusion to the tragedy, police announced Thursday morning that Jessica Guzman had died, but later issued a correction and said the girl was alive. Incorrect information from victim services resulted in the error, a police spokesman said.
Reymundo Marcos’ half-sister, Elicia de Laynes, said she was unaware her niece had survived until she was informed by a reporter Thursday afternoon.
“Thank God, thank God, thank God,” de Laynes said. “This has been so awful.”
The tragedy has orphaned Reymundo Marcos’ three children that remain in Guatemala as well as 3-year-old Jessica and 7-year-old Anai Reymundo, who was living with her mother and younger sister. Family said Anai is being cared for by the church pastor where Reymundo Marcos attended Sunday services.
“We haven’t told her what happened to her mother,” Francisco de Paz, Reymundo Marcos’ nephew, said of Anai. “We’re trying to find a way to talk to her about it.”
Family said they were told Reymundo Marcos was on her way to do laundry when the crash occurred.
De Paz said that his aunt had recently received a verbal threat and that he was skeptical that her death was an accident.
“If this was an accident, the person involved should come forward and say what happened,” de Paz said. “But she has to go to jail.”
Detective Daniel Dillard told reporters Wednesday that Reymundo Marcos and the driver of the Honda knew each other, but that there wasn’t enough evidence yet to determine if the crash was intentional.
Whoever killed Reymundo Marcos and injured her daughter could face decades in jail. Florida law states that anyone leaving the scene of an accident involving death faces up to 30 years in prison.
Anyone with information about the crash is asked to call the West Palm Beach Police Department at 561-822-1900.