UPDATED: Illinois man arrested in Janesville motorcycle deaths

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Frank Schultz
Friday, April 25, 2014

JANESVILLE—Tears pooled in Cory Volkey's eyes as he stood outside the Rock County Sheriff's Office on Friday.

The pain he felt from the Easter Sunday death of his friend Mitchell J. Vance and another motorcyclist, Devin J. Julius, had kept him from sleeping for three days, he said.

Volkey had just heard that an Illinois man suspected of causing deaths was in custody.

“Two thousand pounds of weight off my shoulders—I was, like: Justice! Justice! We're going to see justice,” he told reporters.

Rock County Sheriff Robert Spoden had just announced that Sambath Pal, 24, of Park City, Illinois, was arrested Thursday on two counts of hit-and-run causing death.

Pal is accused of driving the vehicle that struck Julius and Vance on Sunday night.

This won't bring back his friends or take away the suffering of family and friends, Volkey said, but at least justice will be done.

Volkey didn't know Julius well, but he was a friend of Vance.

“Every time he was out (riding), I wanted to be there. He was just a great rider,” Volkey said.

Volkey was not along for his friend's last ride. He received a text about 6 p.m. Sunday, notifying riders to be at the Lions Quick Mart near Milton Avenue in Janesville, the place they usually met for rides.

He missed the rendezvous by five minutes.

Volkey expressed anger at Pal, who is accused of crossing the centerline on Highway 14 about two hours later, crashing into the two motorcyclists and fleeing, touching off a manhunt.

“I just feel wrecked. Just absolutely wrecked,” Volkey said. “That someone would run—I don't care what state of mind—just pull over,” he said.

Man remembers motorcyclist killed in hit-and-run (1:17)

Investigators don't know Pal's state of mind. Asked if Pal is talking to detectives, Spoden said, “Not really.”

Volkey said he came to Janesville three years ago and had no friends until he met Vance and other riders. He had never worn a helmet, but his new friends convinced him to start.

“Riders are their own breed. They're like family,” Volkey said.

“I didn't want the community to think this was a sport-bike thing,” Volkey said. “They were riding 55 (mph), staggered, doing what they were supposed to be doing.”

The sheriff's office has said there are no indication the motorcyclists were violating any laws.

A caller who wanted to be anonymous called the Rock County Communications Center on Thursday morning and told where Pal could be found, in Park City, which is north of Chicago near Waukegan, Illinois, about 80 miles from Janesville.

Park City police arrested Pal, who is being held in Illinois pending extradition to Wisconsin.

There is no indication Pal was impaired during the crash, but alcohol leaves the system quickly, so no test can tell whether he was, Spoden noted.

Pal had been visiting friends in Janesville on Sunday. He was alone in the SUV at the time of the accident “as far as we know,” Spoden said.

The black Infiniti QX56 that Pal is suspected of driving was found at the same place where he was arrested. It was taken to the state crime laboratory in Milwaukee, Spoden said.

The model was the same one authorities earlier believed to be involved in the crash and had damage consistent with what investigators know from the crash scene, Spoden said.

Pal is not the SUV's registered owner, but Spoden said detectives believe he was the driver at the time of the crash based on information from the anonymous caller and from witness statements.

Spoden thanked area news media and users of social media for spreading the word about the vehicle.

Friends and family members attended the news conference, but most declined to talk to reporters. Spoden noted they are going through “a great deal of suffering.”

Pal is being held in the Lake County, Illinois, jail, Spoden said.

News conference: Man arrested in Janesville motorcycle deaths (10:16)

The sheriff's office had appealed to the public for information about a dark blue or black Infiniti QX56 sport utility vehicle that was believed to have crossed the centerline on Highway 14 in the town of Harmony, striking the bikes at dusk Sunday.

Investigators earlier had thought the suspect vehicle was one of two similar models, a Nissan and a smaller Infiniti, but a car part found at the scene was later tied to the QX56.

Vance, 24, and Julius, 18, both of Janesville, died from blunt-force trauma to their heads and torsos, according to autopsy reports.

Vance and Julius were riding with four other motorcyclists, who were not injured in the crash.

The sheriff's office has said the eastbound SUV crossed the centerline on a curve of Highway 14, about 0.1 mile west of Old Humes Road in the town of Harmony.

A westbound minivan dodged out of the SUV's path, and the SUV continued into the westbound lane, hitting the two westbound motorcycles, according to reports.

Vance and Julius were wearing helmets.

A memorial service for Vance is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at Fountain of Life Tabernacle Holiness Church, 1600 E. Huebbe Parkway, Beloit.

Spoden thanked businesses that helped with this case, including Harms Automotive of Janesville and LKQ Auto Parts, where workers helped identify the make, model and year of the vehicle from parts collected at the crash scene. He also thanked Lamar Advertising for providing billboards displaying the suspect vehicle information.

Spoden said it's not yet known whether Pal will oppose extradition from Illinois. If he does, it could be several weeks before he is brought to Rock County to face charges.

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