Tips lead to hidden truck, hit-and-run suspect

- Polk County deputies arrested the driver accused of running over a teenage jogger in Haines City last week, then taking off and trying to cover up the crime.

Investigators said Mario Lopez-Morales, 33, admitted he was emotional and distracted following an argument with his wife on April 3 and then got behind the wheel of his pickup truck.

At around 8 p.m., 17-year-old Adam Schumacher was taking an evening jog when, according to deputies, Lopez-Morales slammed into a discarded wooden cabinet, then Adam, and then a parked van before fleeing the scene.

"It's been a tough week, emotionally," said Adam's mother, Debbie Schumacher. "It's not something that any parent should ever have to deal with, especially arriving on a scene, not knowing your child is in the back of an ambulance and if he's going to live or die."

Debbie has been by her son's side since he was rushed to Osceola Regional Medical Center following the accident.

The accident left Adam with a series of serious injuries, including a fractured skull, but he's expected to make a full recovery.

"I'd love to be able to tell you that over the last week that 100 percent of my attention has been on my son. But I'd be lying in telling you that," Debbie told reporters outside the hospital, discussing her relief that an arrest has been made. "There's always that part that's there, knowing there's someone out there that could be potentially be doing this to someone else's child. So to know that we have this [arrest], that's giving us just a chapter that's closed. Now we truly can put 110 percent on Adam and his recovery, it's a huge feeling."

Sheriff Grady Judd said Lopez-Morales tried to cover his tracks by concealing practically every part of his pickup truck.

"It was hidden so well that it was covered so that you couldn't have seen it with a helicopter, or a drone, or looking over the fence," the sheriff said.

Deputies tracked down Lopez-Morales in Las Vegas, where he was working a construction job. Judd said the suspect immediately flew back to Florida, where he admitted to the accident.

"[Lopez-Morales] was distraught, he was emotional, he was crying, he didn't know where his wife was [the night of the accident]," Judd said. "But when he ran over Adam, Adam was screaming in pain and agony and he heard it and he still left and hid the truck and went to Las Vegas to work."

The sheriff said, had Lopez-Morales stayed at the scene, he likely would have only been issued a traffic citation. The Mexican national now, however, could face years in prison.

Adam is a junior at Harrison School for the Arts in Lakeland. His mother said her son is hoping to feel well enough to attend his upcoming junior prom.

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