Knoxville police identify suspect in fatal hit-and-run

9:08 AM, May 31, 2012   |    comments
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A day after Nelson Soto Sr. and Chasity Thornell and her unborn child were killed in a hit-and-run accident, police continue their investigation.

According to a press release from KPD Spokesman Darrell DeBusk, forensic investigators are processing a Ford Explorer they believe was involved in the fatal crash on Washington Pike. 

DeBusk says when the processing is complete, police and the Knox County District Attorney General's Office will meet to seek warrants for the suspect's arrest.

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Two Knoxville families are grieving and forever linked after a fatal hit-and-run crash in Northeast Knoxville Wednesday morning.

Police say it happened just before 2 a.m. on Washington Pike near Atoka Lane. They've since recovered the silver Ford Explorer they believed was involved in the crash, and while the suspect has not yet been charged, police say he has hired an attorney.

Nelson Soto Sr., 45, was killed in the crash, along with 24-year-old Chasity Thornell and her unborn child.

"Who can hit somebody and not stop," said Shelly Renfro, Thornell's aunt. "I mean, if you hit a bird, you feel bad. If you hit a dog, you stop, but I mean, who hits a person and keeps going?"

It all started when a friend of Thornell's ran out of gas on Washington Pike. She met up with her as Soto was coming to their rescue.

"He's that kind of guy that's always helping, always out there, working hard, putting his best foot forward, trying to make the community a better place. That's just how Nelson was," said Tom Clark, a Soto friend who owns Coverall of Eastern Tennessee.

Clark says Soto and his wife, Elvia, owned a sub-franchise of the commercial cleaning company and were always willing to help.

Wednesday morning, after Soto filled up the gas tank, Thornell was giving him a hug to say thank-you when both of them were struck and killed.

"She was just a sweet girl, and it shows that she was just grateful that somebody was there to help them," Renfro said.

Her family says, not only was Thornell beautiful, she also was smart and had studied physics while attending the University of Tennessee.

Recently, she had been focusing on being a mom to Ava, who turns 2 years old in August, and preparing to welcome another child into the world.

"You just have to breathe one second at a time and know that now she's with her dad (who died suddenly five years ago) and all the earthly things are gone," Renfro said. "She's in a better place. We just have to get through this temporary time until we're with her again."

Soto's family and friends are equally devastated. He leaves behind a wife and four children, all between the ages of 5 and 21.

His friends at Coverall say the family did not have life insurance, and will likely face some financial challenges.

"We are like a family kind of company that we all work together and help everybody else out," Clark said. "We're going to do everything we can in our power to make sure they're taken care of and that life goes on for them and that they can survive and not have to go through too much more tragedy."

Donations for the family can be made to the "Nelson Soto Sr. Memorial Fund" at any SunTrust Bank.

They can also be sent to Coverall of Eastern Tennessee, 109 S. Northshore Drive, Ste. 300, Knoxville, TN, 37919




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