Family members remember hit-and-run victim Juan Pablo Santillan
Joel and Lisette Ortiz of Kremmling lost their relative, Juan Pablo Santillan, when he died in a hit-and-run May 29. Santillan was Joel’s first cousin once removed, but the Ortizes considered him their nephew.
Juan Carlos Flores Flores is accused of killing Santillan when he allegedly put his truck in the wrong gear and ran Santillan over outside of Hotel Eastin in Kremmling. Flores and Santillan knew each other, and Flores is Joel Ortiz’s sister’s brother-in-law.
Joel said Santillan was a hard-working person who loved his family. He also described him as a people person.
“In just a little time, he’s been here, which is almost like six months, five months, he’s made so many friends, so many acquaintances,” Joel Ortiz said. “I’ve been here six years and I haven’t made as many acquaintances as he has.”
Santillan moved to Kremmling from Mexico in Dec. 2021 and worked at Walmart. Santillan’s friends and co-workers told Joel he seemed extra happy the day before he died, dancing around and getting excited for parties over the weekend.
Some of the money Santillan made at his job went back to his family in Mexico. Joel said Santillan did not fully support his family, but he would send money for things like his mother’s birthday. Santillan paid for his mother to take a birthday vacation to the beach and sent his brother $50 for his birthday, Joel said.
Joel did not know Santillan well before the 19-year-old came to the United States, but he tried to help him in any way he could and teach Santillan life lessons in the absence of his father.
“I helped him out (the) first couple months,” Joel said. “Then, I mean, I kind of wanted him to get on his, you know, on his own, to be able to be on his own and be his own man.”
Santillan liked to play with the Ortiz’s children. Joel said he struggles to explain to them what happened to Santillan.
“We don’t even have the words,” Joel said. “We don’t know what to tell them.”
Deputy District Attorney James Hesson requested a $5,000 bond for Flores, but Judge William Herringer set the bond at $1,500. Flores posted bail the night of May 31.
The Ortizes pushed for an increased bail after Kremmling Police Chief Hiram Rivera came to their house to personally tell them the bail amount. Joel said they wanted to raise the bail because they see Flores as a flight risk.
“His plan is to get out,” Joel said. “That’s why we were trying to get it up.”
While Joel thinks the district attorney did not push hard enough for a higher bail, he said the only explanation he received for the reduced one involved the type of bond hearing.
“The lawyer didn’t have enough time to talk with Juan Carlos, I guess, about the charges,” Joel said.
Flores’ bond hearing happened Sunday, meaning Colorado’s Bond Hearing Office 1 handled it. The office covers 22 counties in Colorado on weekends and holidays. Judge Herringer, who heard the case, normally serves the Archuleta, La Plata and San Juan counties in the 6th Judicial District.
The weekend bond hearing system helps guarantee defendants a bond hearing within 48 hours of arrest. House Bill 21-1280, which took effect April 1, guarantees defendants those speedy hearings and created the weekend bond hearing system.
Flores’ bond includes a condition of monitored sobriety, for which he will have to report three times per week. Joel does not think that will keep Flores from trying to leave.
“Technically, he could breathalyze the three last days of the week,” Joel said. “In the meantime, he has all these other days to, I mean, disappear. It doesn’t take that long to disappear.”
Flores’ next court appearance is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on June 7.
Joel created a Gofundme in memory of Santillan, called “En memoria a juan pablo santillan casillas.”
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