Body found in car north of Keizer following Christmas hit-and-run

File photo. (KEIZERTIMES)

A Salem man is being charged with manslaughter, reckless driving and abuse of a corpse following a hit-and-run incident that occurred in the early hours of Christmas morning. 

The victim has been identified as a 16-year-old juvenile according to a Marion County Sheriff’s Office press release Tuesday night. 

Around 2:00 a.m. on Dec. 25, a 911 caller reported that a pedestrian had been struck by a red Honda Civic on Lancaster Drive near Chemeketa Community College. Upon arriving at the scene, deputies determined that the victim had “sustained serious injuries and likely did not survive the collision.”

The body of the victim and the vehicle were no longer at the scene and deputies learned that the red Honda Civic had left the area at a high rate of speed.

A caller around 3:30 a.m. reported finding a red Honda Civic with a deceased person inside near Wheatland and Brooklake roads just north of Keizer. Investigators determined that the deceased male was the same pedestrian that had been involved in the earlier crash. 

Armando Rodarte Jr., 26 of Salem, was identified as the driver of the red Honda Civic and was located around 6:00 a.m. walking in northeast Salem. Rodarte was taken into custody without incident and was lodged in the Marion County Jail. 

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office press release on Dec. 25 did not include how the body of the victim ended up in the car. 

“The investigation is still ongoing at this time. When we are able, more information will be released,” said Sr. Deputy Ethan Griffith, spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, said on Dec. 27.

Lt. Trevor Wenning, spokesperson for the Keizer Police Department, said the department’s only involvement with the incident was helping deputies at the initial crash site on Lancaster Drive. 

Rodarte is being charged with manslaughter in the first degree, failure to perform duties of a driver to injured persons, reckless driving and abuse of corpse in the second degree following an arraignment hearing on Tuesday, Dec. 28. 

He is also being charged with driving under the influence of intoxicants and on a suspended license in separate cases.

Rodarte pleaded guilty on May 6, 2021 to driving under the influence of intoxicants after being pulled over on Jan. 23 with a blood alcohol content of .19. Rodarte was sentenced to 18 months of probation and had his license suspended for one year. 

On Oct. 23, 2021, Rodarte rear ended another vehicle while driving on a suspended license. On Nov. 22, Rodarte was granted a release agreement by the Marion County Circuit Court and under the agreement that he would appear in court on Dec. 22. Rodarte appeared in court on Dec. 22 and was scheduled to go before the judge on Jan. 11, 2022. 

Rodarte also previously pleaded guilty in Marion County Circuit Court to driving under the influence of intoxicants in 2016.

Rodarte is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 11, 2022 to face the six charges against him. His current bail is $500,000 and he is listed as a public safety and flight risk. 

News tip? Contact reporter Joey Cappelletti at [email protected] or 616-610-3093.