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Many Questions After Hit and Run Death

2:30 PM, Sep 25, 2010   |    comments
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LARGO, Md. (WUSA) -- A few days after bicyclist Natasha Pettigrew died from injuries sustained during a hit and run, many people are questioning the driver's explanation and also the crash investigation by police. 

Friday night, Natasha Pettigrew's family, friends and fellow cyclists gathered near the blood stained spot on Rt. 202  where she was struck and left to die by the driver of a Cadillac Escalade. Nearly one hundred mourners held a candlelight vigil in honor of Pettigrew, a former Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate in Maryland.  The 30-year-old died of massive injuries Tuesday morning at Prince George's Hospital Center. 

Maryland State police say Pettigrew, a Cheverly resident, was struck by a Cadillac Escalade Sunday around 5:25 a.m.  while she was riding her bike in preparation for an upcoming triathlon. The SUV was driven by Christy Littleford and police say Littleford did not stop but instead drove nearly four miles to her Upper Marlboro home.  The victim's bicycle was still lodged underneath the SUV throughout the entire trip.

Police say Littleford claimed she did not want to stop in the early morning hours and thought she had hit a deer or a dog. Investigators say when Littleford and her husband realized a bicycle was lodged underneath her Escalade, they called Prince George's County police. That jurisdiction referred the case to Maryland State police. Its not clear what the time frame was between the accident, Littleford's first call to police and when Littleford was interviewed face to face by investigators.

As they offered up prayers and songs in remembrance Friday, vigil-goers described their doubts. "I just think the biggest question at this point is if the driver knew she hit someone or if she hit a deer," asked Crystal Hayes, the good samaritan who stopped to hold Pettigrew on the side of the road after witnessing the accident. Hayes can be heard on the 911 tapes telling Pettigrew to keep breathing and that everything would be alright.

Hayes told 9 NEWS NOW  she saw the SUV stop and then drive away from the scene with smoke and sparks coming from underneath the vehicle. At least two people saw the accident and called 911 asking for help.

Maryland State Police say investigators had not found any reflective clothing or materials near the crime scene or on Pettigrew initially. Kenniss Henry, the victim's mother, says her daughter would never ride her bike without her helmet, reflective belt and sneakers. Hayes told 9 NEWS NOW she saw that helmet, one sneaker and pieces of a reflective belt near the scene as she was helping the victim. 

On Monday, 9NEWS NOW found pieces of reflective plastic just a few feet from the accident scene as well as a reflective sneaker which Pettigrew's mother would later identify as Natasha's. . Maryland State Police returned to the scene on Tuesday to collect that sneaker after being contacted several times by 9 NEWS NOW.

A Prince George's County State's Attorney has been assigned to the case and charges are pending the outcome of the investigation. It could take several weeks or months for that investigation to be finalized.

Attempts to reach the Littlefords have been unsuccessful, no one has answered the door of their home when contacted by 9NEWS NOW.

Some are also calling for tougher and more comprehensive Maryland laws that would allow for more effective punishment for those who leave the scene of an accident involving injuries or deaths. Natasha's mother wants that legislation to carry her daughter's name.

Written by Armando Trull and Brittany Morehouse
9NEWS NOW & wusa9.com

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