Las Cruces Police have arrested the driver suspected in the Aug. 14 fatal hit-and-run crash on Valley Drive and have learned that he was previously convicted for a 2005 crash that killed a woman. Jeffrey A. Nieto, 28, of the 1600 block of Mahaney Drive, was arrested Thursday, Sept. 12, and charged with one count each of careless driving, leaving the scene of an accident that caused great bodily harm or death, and tampering with evidence. Nieto was arrested Thursday afternoon and booked into the Dona Ana County Detention Center with a cash-only bond set at $15,000.
On the morning of Thursday, Sept. 5, Las Cruces Police received a tip through Crime Stoppers that alluded to Nieto’s involvement in the crash that killed 57-year-old bicyclist Terence Patrick Havey. Later that day police located Nieto driving a red 2005 Chevrolet Silverado and conducted a traffic stop.
During the Sept. 5 traffic stop, a Las Cruces Police officer observed damage to the front end of Nieto’s Silverado consistent with it striking an object. Investigators also observed obvious signs of repairs made to the pickup.
Havey was riding a bicycle near the 1800 block of south Valley Drive when he was struck by a pickup shortly before 9 p.m. on Aug. 14. Havey died the following day at an El Paso hospital.
The driver continued south on Valley Drive with Havey’s bicycle lodged underneath the pickup. A witness saw a red Chevrolet or GMC pickup, with the bicycle stuck underneath, turn south onto Main Street where the mangled bike was subsequently located underneath the I-10 overpass.
LCPD investigators learned that Nieto was driving south on Valley Drive and reaching for a cell phone at the time his pickup collided with Havey. Nieto continued driving south on Valley Drive, and then onto Main Street, where he stopped to remove Havey’s bicycle from underneath the pickup. In the days following the crash Nieto tried to repair damage to his pickup but was not completely successful.
According to court records, Nieto was arrested Sept. 29, 2005, following a rollover crash on Robert Larson Boulevard west of Las Cruces. Nieto’s passenger, Erica Chavarria, died a few days later as a result of injuries she received during that crash. The following year Nieto plead guilty to two third-degree felony counts including vehicular homicide and causing great bodily injury by vehicle. He served his sentence in the New Mexico Department of Corrections.