Originally created 03/10/99

Investigators charging man in hit-and-run



South Carolina troopers have charged a Batesburg, S.C., man in a bizarre Halloween hit-and-run that kept investigators working for months.

Shawn Michael Roccia, 25, of Batesburg, was charged with reckless homicide and leaving the scene of a deadly accident. The charges stem from the death of David Heyward, who was walking home from the Crossroads Club bar when a car struck him near Monetta last year.

The odd twist: Mr. Heyward was killed by the vehicle he had driven to the bar that night, said Cpl. Rusty Pruitt of the South Carbolina Highway Patrol.

The man charged with rolling over Mr. Heyward and then eluding authorities for months was an acquaintance of Mr. Heyward, and the pair had ridden to the bar together. But Mr. Roccia left the bar in the vehicle and was on his way back when he struck Mr. Heyward, Cpl. Pruitt said Tuesday.

There is no evidence to suggest Mr. Heyward was killed intentionally, Cpl. Pruitt said.

Mr. Heyward, 33, was struck while walking along South Carolina Highway 391 south of Monetta. Toxicology reports show he was legally intoxicated when he was hit. A motorist discovered the victim at about 2:30 a.m. Oct. 31.

The hit-and-run remained unsolved for days before Aiken County Deputy Coroner Tim Carlton asked for the public's help.

Cpl. Pruitt assisted investigators in fitting the pieces together and identifying the car and the suspect. Here's how:

A thorough search of the accident scene and surrounding streets turned up pieces of the vehicle. Cpl. Pruitt obtained identification numbers from the items and went through local car dealerships, narrowing the vehicle's make and model to two types.

He then went to the South Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles and ran makes and models for all cars in the region of Aiken, Batesburg and Monetta.

While checking cars, he came across one parked at the home of the victim. With permission from the family, Cpl. Pruitt examined it and determined the incriminating piece found at the hit-and-run scene was missing from beneath the car.

Mr. Roccia had also worked with Mr. Heyward. The victim had put up money to bail Mr. Roccia out of jail two weeks before the hit-and-run, Cpl. Pruitt said.

Witnesses placed Mr. Roccia in the car the night of the accident, leading to the charges.

Mr. Roccia's arrest last week followed interviews with nearly 30 people. It also brings closure to the Heyward family, Mr. Carlton said.

After his arrest, Mr. Roccia was taken to the Aiken County Detention Center, where he was being held Tuesday without bond.

Greg Rickabaugh covers police for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.