An $11,600 reward is being offered to find the driver who hit and killed a 20-year-old Pitt Community College student on a North Carolina highway in August.
Austin Baeza, 20, was found dead in a ditch alongside Highway 33 in Pitt County, North Carolina on August 18.
Investigators continue to search for a gray or silver Chrysler product, possibly a Jeep or Dodge. The car should have front-end damage to the headlight area and possibly a missing mirror or antenna, police said.
Authorities say they still have no suspects in the case.
Meanwhile, Austin’s friends and family have started “The Austin Campaign” on Facebook. They’re hoping for increased penalties for drivers who flee the scene of an accident and for better alert systems for authorities to track down cars involved in crashes.
As the reward continues to grow, Austin’s mother, Nicki Baeza, told HLN how thankful she is for those who have contributed to the reward. One of those people, Brent Lee, a local business man from Greenville and a complete stranger to the Baeza family, donated $2,000. Euro Motor Cars in Germantown, Maryland, the company Austin’s father works for, also contributed $3,000 to the fund.
Austin’s family says they plan to set up a billboard at the accident site in December. “We have to rely on the local media and population to catch this person,” Baeza said.
As the holidays approach, Baeza says she and her family will honor their son by sticking to their traditions. “Like every year, his stocking will be hung on the fireplace mantle…Austin would not want us to be sad or not get everyone together…he loved the holidays and festivities,” Baeza said.
“Sunday was three months since Austin’s death. We cannot fathom how someone could take a human life and not step forward,” Baeza said. “We need answers. We are heartbroken over this tragic loss but it is compounded by the fact that we have no answers. We feel that someone should have seen him walking or possibly getting a ride. The smallest of details could help us put this puzzle together. We simply have nothing and that is very frustrating which only adds to our pain and suffering.”
Donations can be sent to:
Pitt County Sheriff’s Office
P.O. Box 528
Greenville, NC 27834
Attention: Pitt/Greenville Crimestoppers
*Note: Please make checks payable to: Pitt/Greenville Crimestoppers
MEMO: Austin Baeza
Anyone with information regarding a vehicle with unexplained damage or the death of Austin Baeza is encouraged to contact Crimestoppers at 252-758-7777.