(KRON) — A hit-and-run driver who killed a 17-year-old Bay Area girl never should have been behind the wheel to begin with, according to the Pittsburg Police Department.

The victim’s friends identified her as Brooke Jeffrey, a girl who loved to dance and attended Melody’s Dance Studio in Antioch for 12 years. Many young dancers at Melody’s Dance Studio looked up to Jeffrey as a role model. To honor her, girls wrote words of kindness on balloons before releasing them into the sky.

On March 7, Jeffrey was walking to be picked up by her mother near school when she struck by a vehicle on Stoneman Avenue.

Brooke Jeffrey (bottom row, second from right) danced ballet and hip-hop. She was beloved by fellow dancers as a role model.

Detectives worked around-the-clock to find the suspected hit-and-run driver. On Wednesday, police identified the suspect as Roberto Sainez, 34, of Pittsburg. Police arrested Sainez for vehicular manslaughter, and also arrested his fiancé, 30-year-old Vanessa Landeros, for allegedly helping him cover up the crime.

At the time of the deadly accident, Sainez’s driver’s license was suspended because of a prior conviction for Driving Under the Influence, PPD said.

A police officer leads Roberto Sainez into jail on March 15, 2023. (Image courtesy Pittsburg Police Department)

The couple was arrested on Gladstone Drive in Pittsburg. Investigators said they found Sainez’s vehicle hidden on a property in Sonoma County.

Sainez was booked into a Contra Costa County jail Wednesday on the following charges:

  • Vehicular manslaughter
  • Hit-and-run
  • Destroying or concealing evidence
  • Hit and run resulting in death
  • Driving with a suspended license for DUI

Landeros was booked into jail on two charges:

  • Accessory after the fact
  • Destroying or concealing evidence

“From the onset, this case was handled with an all-hands-on deck approach and investigators worked diligently, following all investigative leads that led to these arrests. This included reviewing of countless hours of video surveillance, which aided in the identification of the suspect vehicle and ultimately the suspects. Investigators served several search warrants in this case to include two Pittsburg residences, a Pittsburg business, and a property in Sonoma County which also led to the recovery of the vehicle involved in the collision,” the Pittsburg Police Department wrote.

The dancer’s death sparked outrage and concern in Contra Costa County.

Brooke Jeffrey
Brooke Jeffrey

More than 1,500 community members signed a Change.org petition, “Light up Stoneman Ave #JusticeForBrookeJeffrey” this week calling for traffic safety improvement along the street where Jeffrey was killed.

The petition states, “Brooke Jeffrey (was) a beautiful, creative, and vibrant 17 year old. Brooke’s life mattered. We can prevent another tragedy. We do not want another family to bear this pain Brooke’s family is enduring.”

The petition continues, “The crosswalk lights and overhanging crossing red lights have not been turned on since installation, leaving the street dark and unsafe. There are four schools and a youth development center within a six-block radius of where the hit and run occurred. We are not only demanding justice, we are demanding the crossing lights and sign be turned on immediately.”

Pittsburg police thanked community members who cooperated to help catch the driver and “provide the family closure and justice.”

The criminal case will be handed over to the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office for prosecutors to file charges.

The case is still an active investigation. Anyone who has additional information related to this case is urged to call Detective Gutierrez at 925-252-4095 or Detective Elmore at 925-252-4875.