KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Police found a hit-and-run suspect hours after a pregnant woman, her unborn child and a man were struck and killed early Wednesday in Northeast Knoxville.
Police say two women ran out of gas while they were traveling eastbound in the 4200 block of Washington Pike near Atoka Lane.
A man who lived by where they stopped, Nelson A. Soto, 45, helped them by filling their car with gas from his lawn mower.
One of the women, Chasity E. Thornell, 24, of Millertown Pike in Knoxville, hugged him to thank him for his help. That's when she and Soto were struck and killed by a silver 2004 Ford Explorer.
Thornell was seven months pregnant, and her unborn child died at the scene as well. Thornell's family says she also has a daughter who will be two years old in August.
"She was a very sweet girl. She was hugging the man to thank him when they were hit. She was very thoughtful. She had a baby girl. She was a good mom," said Shelly Renfro, Thornell's aunt.
Thornell studied physics at the University of Tennessee and attended West High School.
Nelson Soto was a father of five and worked for a cleaning service. "How sad for their family that they lost their family member because he was trying to be nice and help someone," Renfro said.
Police said the car that struck the two victims was going extremely fast. Neighbors say people speed on the street at all times of day.
"It's scary, I think about it when I'm getting the mail or the paper or get to close to the street when mowing the lawn," said Matt Lauer who lives across the street from where the incident occurred.
The second woman wasn't hit by the SUV.
Evidence at the scene and tips from the public led investigators to find the suspect and his SUV, a silver 2004 Ford Explorer, Wednesday afternoon in North Knoxville.
Investigators will seek warrants for the man's arrest through the Knox County District Attorney General's Office. The suspect has hired an attorney, but police are withholding his name until he's charged.
A memorial fund is set up at SunTrust Bank in Soto's name.
There is a memorial fund for Chasity Thornell at TVA Credit Union.