Community mourns little Sheyla, 7

Suspect caught in alleged hit-and-run in West New York

Choked with tears over the death of his seven year old daughter, Javier Pichardo said, “My daughter would not want me to hate this man.”
Speaking through a translator in front of more than a dozen TV news cameras at a press conference on Tuesday in West New York Town Hall, Pichardo praised the law enforcement officials who apprehended two suspects connected with Monday’s hit-and-run accident that took the life of his only child as she walked to school.
Seven-year-old Sheyla Pichardo and her mother were holding hands as they crossed VanBuren Place at 61st Street around 8:20 a.m. Monday morning on their way to School No. 1. There was no crossing guard. The car made a left turn and hit them both.
Sheyla, who was in the first grade, died as result of severe head trauma. Her mother was thrown several yards but was able to get back to hold her daughter. Both were transported to Palisades Medical Center.

“Law enforcement did a fantastic job.” – Mayor Felix Roque

Yeime Vital, 32, was still being treated for non-life-threatening injuries at the hospital at the time of the news conference.
Hudson County Sheriff Frank Schillari, who had vowed to hunt down the driver of the SUV seen leaving the accident scene, announced that “solid police work” had resulted in the apprehension of a Newark couple.
A nearby camera caught a man getting out of the car, looking at what had happened, and driving away.
Fabian Rodriguez, 33, and Joanna Rosas-Alvarez, 26, were arrested at their Newark home by officers from the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office.
Assistant Hudson County Prosecutor Leo Hernandez said his office had worked in conjunction with the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office and the West New York Police Department. He said Rodriguez, who was alone in the car at the time of the accident, was charged with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in a fatality, and knowingly leaving the scene of an accident that caused bodily harm. His girlfriend was not there but was charged with hindering apprehension.
Schillari said Rodriquez, believed to be an undocumented immigrant from Ecuador, did not have a driver’s license and was allegedly driving a vehicle owned by his girlfriend Rosas-Alvarez, who later reported the vehicle stolen.
Rosas-Alvarez may face additional charges in Hillside, N.J. for false reporting.
West New York police officers and others stayed up overnight trying to make out the vehicle’s license plate number from video.
Capt. Alejandro DeRojas of the West New York Police said they were able to make out four of the seven figures that typically make up a license plate, and attempted to compare this to a data base of vehicles with those figures that matched the description of the vehicle fleeing the scene.
About 10 officers, DeRojas said, worked through the night reviewing the tapes, and eventually were able to identify the vehicle.
Shortly after midnight, on March 1, officers from the Hudson County Sheriff’s Department and others arrested Rodriquez and Rosas-Alvarez at their home in Newark where they lived together.
“Law enforcement did a fantastic job,” said WNY Mayor Felix Roque.
The accident scene on 61st Street is about a block from Bergenline Avenue and is populated with a number of residential homes, small businesses, hair salons, a night club and a day care center. A block away is School No. 1. On the day of the arrests, kids’ voices echoed out onto the street, adding a strange youthful cheer to the score of people gathered around a makeshift memorial.
“I’m heartbroken,” Javier Pichardo said during the news conference. “For the man that did this to my daughter, I don’t wish him any harm. God bless him.”
He also said he hoped the person driving the car never has to feel the pain he does at losing a child.
His wife had worked at the local nail salon on Bergeline Avenue. Workers at the salon recalled her daughter’s liveliness when she would come for a visit. One family friend described her as an “angel.”
Javier Pichardo worked in construction and was called away Monday with news of the death. He and his wife are immigrants from Mexico.
Roque said in the local press that he had visited Yeime Vital, who would only say in Spanish, “My little girl.”
He said the city will consider adding a crossing guard to that corner. He also said the city will pay burial expenses.
School No. 1 made grief counselors available all week.

Al Sullivan may be reached at

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