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Deadly hit-and-run driver guilty of manslaughter in Riviera Beach crash

Posted at 5:32 PM, May 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-30 05:54:45-04

A Jupiter man was found guilty of hitting a man with his vehicle in a deadly crash that dismembered the victim’s body in Riviera Beach.

A Palm Beach County jury found James Walker guilty of vehicular manslaughter Tuesday afternoon in the death of 27-year-old Wesley Wagner while Walker drove a rental vehicle.

Wagner was crossing the 6500 block of Military Trail near Rapids Water Park in October 2016 when he was hit and killed.

“He didn’t stop, he didn’t brake, he just kept on going,” Asst. State Attorney Danielle Sherriff said. Police records show Walker was driving 84 mph in a 45 mph zone. 

Walker’s defense attorney, John Clearly, said Walker was speeding at the time of the crash but didn’t intentionally hit Wagner. “This accident obviously happened fast, it was shocking,” said Cleary.

Detectives said they spoke with Walker following the crash, but could not find him after obtaining a search warrant for his DNA. Law enforcement caught Walker two weeks after the crash at Fort Lauderdale International Airport after leaving a flight from the Bahamas. 

Wagner’s grandmother, Mary Wagner, said in court she helped take care of him and looked after him as her own son. 

Police say Wagner crossed the street illegally. Witnesses testified they slowed down when they say Wagner crossing, but saw another car speeding that hit Wagner, causing his body to “explode.” 

A medical examiner with the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner’s Office said his body was mutilated and dismembered from the collision. She ruled his cause of death as blunt force trauma. 

The examiner said she believes he had alcohol and drugs in his system, but it was impossible to get an accurate number because his injuries were so extensive.

Walker faces up to 45 years in prison.

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