TURNER — Friends of Xavier Fuentes were grieving his death and seeking answers on Monday, the day Fuentes was supposed to be back at Leavitt Area High School for the first time last year.
Fuentes, a 16-year-old Turner resident, was hit and killed while walking along Route 117 in South Paris on Saturday night. The driver who hit him did not stop, and Fuentes was found lying in the westbound travel lane by a passing driver at 8:30 p.m., police said. Fuentes was taken to Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway, where he died.
The news shocked residents in his rural hometown.
“He had a tight-knit group of friends and we had some students who were pretty impacted by the news,” said Eben Shaw, principal at Leavitt Area High School. “They’re trying to figure out why.”
Counselors and staff members were available for students who wanted to talk to someone about the incident, he said.
Fuentes went to Leavitt for his freshman year before transferring to Telstar Regional High School in Bethel for the first part of his sophomore year. Shaw said it was a family decision and had nothing to do with Fuentes’ performance or behavior at school.
He had decided recently to transfer back to Leavitt, and would have started classes Monday.
Many residents expressed outrage that someone hit the boy and never stopped.
“It’s sad. Such a young man, too,” said Jody Flagg of Turner, working the counter at Murray’s Mega Mart on Route 4. “Somebody killed somebody. Wouldn’t they stop?”
Fuentes’ grandfather said he and his wife were too upset to discuss the boy’s death. He said they have not been able to make funeral arrangements because his body is still at the state Medical Examiner’s Office.
Fuentes’ grandmother, Janice Moore, responded to some of the anger expressed on social media with her own Facebook post over the weekend.
“Xavier doesn’t want us to hate the person who hit him,” she wrote. “He doesn’t want hate and discontent. He wants justice and fairness. If this person was drunk or whatever the case they and their family will need help too. Xavier wants peace. I love him so much.”
An autopsy on Fuentes’ body is scheduled for Tuesday, and police hope it can help shed light on what happened.
Police said he may have been hit by a vehicle large enough to be outfitted with a snowplow, although they were not certain about the kind of vehicle, and revised their theory from Sunday to say the vehicle did not necessarily have a plow on it.
Fuentes was walking toward oncoming traffic, as pedestrians are supposed to do, but he was wearing dark clothes and might have been hard to see, said Paris police Sgt. Jeffrey Lange, who is leading an investigation that includes Paris police and Maine State Police. Lange said there is little room to walk on the side of the road where Fuentes was hit, because of guard rails and snowbanks. The road is rural and not lighted at night. The white line marking the outer edge of the travel lane is about twos feet from the snowbank.
Police are doing an accident reconstruction, which along with the autopsy should help determine where Fuentes was hit and how fast the vehicle might have been going.
Police conducted a roadblock Sunday night to ask motorists traveling through the area around the same time as the crash if they had been there Saturday night and seen anything noteworthy. Lange said there was less traffic on Sunday than there would have been on a Saturday night. Investigators also are working to collect security video that might show vehicles passing through the area at that time of night.
Fuentes’ body was plainly visible, Lange said, so he would have been spotted by the next driver who came along.
Fuentes had been with his cousin at a movie theater in Oxford and left abruptly. His family couldn’t find him after the movie, then learned he had been hit about four miles outside of town, family members said.
Route 117 is the main route between South Paris and Turner. The theater where Fuentes went is southwest of South Paris. His body was found four miles east of the theater.
Police have asked that the driver who hit Fuentes come forward. The family has offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to that person.
Lange said police do not know whether Fuentes was in the travel lane when he was hit, but it is a crime in any case for a driver not to stop after an accident in which there is an injury.
“I don’t know what (the driver’s) state was either – drunk, (license) under suspension, (arrest) warrants, anything like that,” Lange said. The driver may also have been scared, he said.
At the scene Monday, marks on the pavement showed where the crash had occurred, but there were no skid marks.
David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: