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Tampa police search home of teenager in fatal hit-and-run inquiry

Jordan Valdez, left; Melissa Sjostrom.

Jordan Valdez, left; Melissa Sjostrom.

TAMPA — Tampa police executed a search warrant Friday night on the Davis Islands home of Robert and Kim Valdez, parents of a teen suspected of fleeing a hit-and-run crash.

They were looking for computers and phones, according to Ty Trayner, attorney for 17-year-old Jordan Valdez.

On Thursday, police reactivated their investigation of the crash, after the St. Petersburg Times raised questions about the 3-month-old case.

Trayner said he was out of town when a police sergeant called, looking for a way into the house. No one was home.

Trayner offered to contact one of the family's other attorneys, but police reported they had found an open door and gained access, he said.

"We would have given them whatever they asked for," Trayner said.

He said the family is willing to cooperate with detectives, though the Valdezes have yet to be interviewed.

Police have said they are certain that an SUV owned by the Valdez family and usually driven by Jordan Valdez is the one that hit 33-year-old Melissa Sjostrom on the night of Feb. 8 as she crossed Hyde Park Avenue near the Davis Islands bridge.

The impact knocked Sjostrom out of her shoes, shattering bones, injuring her head and scraping her up severely. She died in surgery an hour and a half later.

Authorities have plenty of circumstantial evidence. A red paint chip from the scene matched the SUV, which had front-end damage and was parked outside the Valdez family's Davis Islands home. A SunPass transponder showed that the SUV exited the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway three blocks from the scene and minutes before the crash.

And witnesses saw an SUV hit Sjostrom, stop briefly, then drive across the Davis Islands bridge.

But they couldn't see the driver.

The only firm evidence detectives have that puts the teenage driver behind the SUV's wheel is a statement that can't be used against her.

A police spokesman said Friday night that he was unaware of the search warrant activity and could not comment.

Trayner said he has been in contact with the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office.

"We are trying to work the thing out," he said.

Asked to explain, he said: "To see what both sides want."

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at (813) 226-3337 or cjenkins@sptimes.com.

Tampa police search home of teenager in fatal hit-and-run inquiry 05/22/09 [Last modified: Monday, May 25, 2009 5:43pm]
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