New details released as family pleads for justice after fatal Burney hit and run
BURNEY, Calif. — When Melissa Sweet moved to the Intermountain community of Hat Creek more than 20 years ago, she was drawn to the secluded and rural mountain area by the quiet and slow pace of mountain living. With the nearest town of Burney just a few miles away, Melissa thought the area would be the perfect community to bring her mother to live about ten years ago.
Although Melissa’s mother, Dorothy Moore, 63, suffered from chronic insomnia, medical conditions and other issues, and used a walker to get around, she tended to wander the streets late at night and into the early morning hours.
Despite her mother’s late-night walks and Melissa’s efforts to convince her mom to stay indoors at night, Melissa felt her mother would be safe, knowing that the in-town speed limit was just 30 mph and is enforced by both the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office as well as California Highway Patrol, both of which have stations in town.
And as it turned out, Moore was well known to area deputies and officers, who had often stopped to talk with her and warn her of the dangers of wandering the streets so late at night.
In a tragic twist of fate CHP Officer Chris Ogden, who is investigating Moore’s death, had recently cautioned her about walking in the roadway. He had also provided her with a brightly colored, reflective safety vest and encouraged her to wear it during her late-night walks.
Sadly, she had not been wearing the vest when she was run over and dragged twenty to thirty feet down the highway late last Thursday night. The driver who ran over and dragged Moore did not stop, attempt to render aid, or call for emergency services, and immediately fled the scene; leaving her to die in the middle of the roadway.
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In the wake of her mother’s passing, Melissa – whose birthday was today, making dealing with her mother’s recent passing that much harder to handle – has been left trying to arrange for her mother’s funeral while simultaneously doing everything she can to track down and find the person who killed her mom.
“I don’t even know what to do or where to start, I’m just lost,” Melissa tearfully told SCNS this afternoon, as she continued trying to cope with all the emotions she is going through.
Consumed with anger, frustration, and sadness, Melissa said she has spent the last several days canvassing the streets while seeking witnesses and information about her mom’s death, any potential witnesses, and the vehicle seen fleeing the area.
She has also been going door to door to many of the various businesses that line Main Street, asking for any potential security camera footage that may have captured her mother’s horrific death or the vehicle that fled the scene.
One of those businesses has already come through and been able to provide CHP and Melissa with footage of a vehicle seen driving through town at a high rate of speed right around the time of the deadly hit and run.
CHP has released an image of an SUV they are calling a “vehicle of interest” in the case of a 63-year-old woman who was hit and dragged to her death in Burney last Thursday evening. CHP photo
Although initial eyewitness reports indicated that the vehicle that struck Moore was possibly a newer black Jeep, the security camera footage showed the only similar vehicle seen around the time of the collision was not a Jeep, but another as-yet-unknown make or model compact SUV.
“Because we cannot confirm that the vehicle seen in the footage was actually involved in the hit and run, we are just considering this SUV a vehicle of interest at this point,” Ogden explained; adding that despite the town’s 30 mph speed limit, the vehicle appeared to be going 50 to 60 mph when it passed by the security camera.
That footage also showed a silver sedan, possibly a Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, or other similar vehicle, pass through the area at around the same time. In the video, that vehicle can be seen driving westbound at a normal rate of speed, before turning north on Plumas Street.
“That’s another person we’d like to speak with,” Ogden told SCNS in a telephone interview. “They may have seen something, maybe without even realizing it, that could prove relevant to this investigation.”
Although Ogden said he hopes the driver who fled the scene “does the right thing and turns themself in,” he is already following several leads to identify the driver of that vehicle.
According to Ogden, one of the potential – but not confirmed, pieces of evidence recovered at the scene was a broken license plate frame from a Nissan Hyundai dealership. Although the frame piece was found in the roadway near where the collision occurred, there was no immediate way of knowing if the frame was relevant to the ongoing investigation.
However, Ogden said that in the coming days he will be following up with all the local and North State area Nissan Hyundai dealerships to obtain records of any similar vehicles sold to any residents of the Intermountain area or surrounding communities.
Although not yet confirmed to be related to this investigation, CHP is following up on leads generated by a broken license plate frame that was found at the scene of last Thursday’s fatal hit and run. CHP photo
To aid in the investigation, Ogden is also asking for any potential witnesses to the collision who have not yet provided a statement to step forward.
“We know of at least two men who were seen walking in the area when the collision occurred,” Ogden explained. “They were the ones who got the best view of the suspect’s vehicle and we really need those two men to come forward and provide us with the details of what they witnessed.”
Ogden also said he is looking for another man seen walking in the area at the same time, who later claimed to have seen the collision and had specific details about the vehicle that fled the scene.
“None of the three have come forward, and the information they may have could potentially be exactly what we need, that one piece of key evidence, to solve this case,” Ogden explained.
Ogden said he will also be following up with other businesses and banks with ATM machines that have cameras that point toward the street as the investigation continues.
“There will likely be other footage out there,” Ogden explained; saying he needs every business along the entire length of Main Street to check any security camera footage that faces the highway, which may have captured images or footage of all the vehicles seen passing through the area around the time of the 10:30 p.m. collision.
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Meanwhile, Melissa is spending her birthday today continuing to try and make sense of her mother’s death.
“I don’t even know what else to say at this point, other than my mother deserves justice,” Melissa emotionally explained to SCNS.
“My sole quest in life right now is to track down her killer,” Melissa continued. “She deserves that much, and I won’t give up until we find that person and they are held accountable.”
As her quest for justice continues, Melissa said she wished Burney would add more street lights, sidewalks, and safer designated areas for pedestrians to walk.
“It’s not just my mom,” Melissa explained. “There are a lot of people – kids, elderly folks, families, and others – who walk the streets of Burney day and night. And Burney just doesn’t have enough sidewalks or areas where they can safely walk along the road.”
“Something good needs to come out of this,” Melissa continued; tearfully adding, “I can’t let my mother’s death be in vain. There needs to be better safety for other pedestrians, so nothing like this ever happens again.”
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Trevor Montgomery, 49, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source (RCNS) and Shasta County News Source (SCNS).
Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County-based newspapers Valley News, Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; the Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County; and Mountain Echo in Shasta County. He is also a regular contributor to Thin Blue Line TV and Law Enforcement News Network and has had his stories featured on news stations throughout the Southern California and North State regions.
Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)
During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.
Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.
Trevor has been married for more than 30 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 18 grandchildren.