Officials Hope to Crack 1998 Hit-and-Run Case





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Mayor Shirley Dean and the Berkeley Police Department said yesterday they are hopeful that this Saturday's episode of America's Most Wanted will help solve a year-and-a-half-old Berkeley crime.

This weekend's show is expected to feature a four-minute segment on a 1998 hit and run that claimed the life of Rick DeVecchi, according to show spokesperson Avery Mann.

"We're going to show a composite sketch of the subject," Mann said. "And we will plead to the public to call us if they have any information on the guy who did this, (or anyone) who may have seen something odd the night before or the morning of this incident."

On December 17, 1998, DeVecchi was run down and killed in front of his West Berkeley warehouse by an old Cadillac. A man who witnessed the accident said the car seemed to speed up as it headed toward DeVecchi, but Berkeley police have been unable to recover the car in question or locate the driver.

Berkeley police Sgt. Cary Kent, the investigator who has been in charge of the DeVecchi case since February, said he hopes that national television coverage will familiarize the public with the incident.

"We're looking for anything," Kent said. "We never know on any of these until we get the word out. We're hoping that it's going to help in that it will put the case in front of someone who knows the incident or was told about the incident. We'll get that information and be able to go forward."

Dean echoed police optimism that the show will help lead to some closure.

"(The police) are very hopeful that by putting it on America's Most Wanted it will trigger something in somebody's mind," Dean said.

She added that this incident should not be used as an indicator of a larger crime problem in Berkeley, and that Berkeley police rarely encounter a case they cannot solve.

"Berkeley is not a heavy crime area," Dean said. "That is not to say that there isn't any crime. (But the police) have had good luck in closing cases. We've got good cops. We work very hard at closing these cases and reducing their numbers."

Dean said that despite Berkeley's relatively low crime rate, solving this case should be a top priority and deserves significant attention.

"We still want to catch the guy who did this," she said. "We want to solve these crimes. "

The mayor also encouraged Berkeley residents not to be afraid of crime and to help police solve cases whenever possible.

"As hard as it might be, don't give up," Dean said. "Keep helping the police find these people that commit crimes. We know it's scary, we know it's intimidating, but we're with you all the way. We're going to do all we can to make sure this doesn't happen in Berkeley."

Dean added that airing the segment will not place Berkeley in a negative light because it shows that police are dedicated to solving the crime.

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