Erik Nicholas Ortiz and Derek Verdugo Were La Habra Buddies; Now One's Held for Killing the Other

Pomona police were called Monday night to an area near the town's cemetery where a Nissan Sentra had hit a tree and rolled.

It was discovered at the scene that Derek Verdugo, 25, of La Habra, had been ejected from the car. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

But police say Verdugo was the passenger, not the driver, who was nowhere to be found . . . until about five hours later when Erik Nicholas Ortiz waltzed into Pomona police headquarters.

Ortiz, 24, of La Habra, was later booked on suspicion of felony hit-and-run and vehicular manslaughter and held in lieu of $50,000 bail.

He's an Army National Guard aircraft
power-plant repairer who studied at Fullerton College, according to his Facebook profile. He and Verdugo were also Facebook friends.

Verdugo was a musician and “regular Coachella head,” notes Simone Wilson on our big sistah paper LA Weekly's The Informer news blog. He's shown behind a drum kit in some Facebook photos. 

Based on R.I.P. messages left on Verdugo's wall and with Wilson's post, he, Ortiz and some commenters attended a nearby function prior to the accident.

Police have not yet said whether alcohol or any other substance was a factor in the wreck.

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