A San Diego man with an extensive criminal history pleaded not guilty in court Wednesday to a deadly hit and run crash that claimed the life of a 20-year-old man.
Former convict, Jason Palmer, 33, is accused in the hit and run crash that killed Jacob Greenwald, 20, in Spring Valley early Sunday morning.
Greenwald was walking home from work on Campo Road just before 4 a.m. when he was struck by Palmer, according to officials.
Greenwald was pronounced dead at the scene. Palmer fled the area before officers arrived.
California Highway Patrol investigators found the license plate to a 2008 Toyota 4Runner at the scene. The vehicle was registered to Palmer’s grandfather, according to Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright.
After several attempts to contact Palmer, he turned himself in to authorities Sunday afternoon.
During his arrest, Palmer had the keys to the 4Runner in his pocket, CHP officials said.
He was booked into San Diego Central Jail on felony charges, including hit and run resulting in death and vehicular manslaughter.
According to officials, Palmer left the 4Runner in the 8500-block of Hurlbut Street in Serra Mesa following the crash. As officers were processing the vehicle, Palmer was spotted driving by slowly.
Investigators believe alcohol or drugs played a role in the fatal hit and run.
Officials said Palmer has a lengthy criminal record, including a DUI arrest in 2000. Earlier this week, NBC 7 learned Palmer was released from prison early as a result of Assembly Bill 109, which aims to reduce prison overcrowding.
This is Palmer’s second time being involved in a hit and run, Bright confirmed.
She said Palmer’s DUI in 2000 was a misdemeanor, plus a misdemeanor hit and run. In that incident, Palmer struck some type of property, not a person, and fled the scene, Bright said.
She said Palmer also has additional prior offenses on his record, including attempted robbery, receiving stolen property and possessing a vehicle that did not belong to him.
Bright said Palmer has been in prison three separate times for different prior offenses.
Most recently, she said he was released from local prison on Oct. 8 and had only met once with his probation officer on Oct. 21.
In court, the prosecutor alleged that Palmer told a friend about the hit and run accident involving Greenwald prior to his arrest on Sunday, saying he thought “he had hit someone and killed them.”
On Wednesday, investigators announced that they’re still asking for the public’s assistance in this case. Detectives are trying to determine Palmer’s blood-alcohol level at the time of the crash, so information on his whereabouts following the accident is crucial to the investigation.
“On October 26th, late afternoon into the evening, as well as early morning hours of the 27th, if anyone has any information on our suspect in this matter, Mr. Jason Palmer – on his whereabouts – that would greatly help in the investigation,” said CHP Officer Kevin Pearlstein.
Bright said Palmer is considered a flight risk, and asked a judge to set his bail at $3 million. Ultimately, a judge set Palmer’s bail at $1.5 million. If convicted, Palmer faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
He is scheduled to appear in court again on Nov. 7.
Meanwhile, Bright said Greenwald’s family is deeply saddened and overwhelmed by the loss of their loved one.
“It’s a very, very sad case. We have family coming in from out of town and [Greenwald’s] funeral is this weekend. As you can imagine, the family is devastated,” she said.
Friends have described Greenwald as a kind, sweet, funny and driven young man filled with potential.