By Clay Wilson
Clayton police have arrested a man in connection with the abandoned clothes dryer that caused a fatal accident last week.
The 25-year-old Hapeville man now faces vehicular homicide and other charges in the case.
Clayton County Police Department Capt. Jeff Turner said officers picked up Jose Luna Gonzales around 8:20 p.m. Friday at his home. The police found Luna through information they obtained from the box of a dryer that fell off his truck on March 8.
The dryer landed in a northbound lane of I-75 near Forest Park. Shortly afterward, 43-year-old Michael Ronald Hall of Atlanta swerved to miss the dryer and lost control of his vehicle, which flipped several times.
Hall, an assistant dean and director of the master of business administration program at Clark Atlanta University, was killed in the wreck. His sons, ages 6 and 9, received minor injuries. Hall's funeral was held Saturday in Atlanta.
Police traced the shipping order on the dryer to Home Depot on Jonesboro Road in Forest Park. There they found a surveillance video showing a Hispanic man buying the dryer with his young son. The video showed the two leaving the store in a dark-colored Ford F-150.
Police spent last week searching for the man in the video.
According to Turner, the break in the case came Friday, when a Home Depot employee who had returned to work after a couple of days off told a manager that a Hispanic man had come into the store March 9 n the day after the accident n to buy a dryer. The employee said the man told her he had bought one the night before, but had lost it.
Authorities called a cell number the man had given the employee when buying the new dryer, identified Gonzalez and obtained his address. Police also confirmed that he has a green Ford F-150 and a young son.
Officers picked Gonzalez up at his home and took him to police headquarters for questioning.
"He admitted that he had purchased the dryer at a Home Depot on Jonesboro Road," Turner said.
Turner said Gonzalez, a construction worker, told detectives that he had been out of town and unaware that police were looking for him. He also told them he did not know the dryer had been involved in a fatality, Turner said.
According to Turner, Gonzalez said he had tied the dryer in his truck with a rope. He told detectives that after the appliance fell out he stopped his truck and looked up the road for it. However, Gonzalez said he did not see the dryer, so he proceeded on his way.
Police charged Gonzalez with second-degree vehicular homicide and failure to secure a load. They also charged him with a driver's license class violation, since he only had a permit to drive to and from work or school. All of the charges are misdemeanors.
Turner said last week that if the person who lost the dryer had reported it, he likely would only have been charged with failure to secure a load.
Gonzalez had a first appearance hearing before a Clayton judge on Saturday. No bond was set at the hearing, and Gonzalez remained in the county jail on Sunday.