Cecilia Morales de Toledo told the Source that, at the time of the incident, she had a driver’s permit from the Department of Motor Vehicles. She said she’d obtained this permit in September of 2015. According to state law, a driver with a permit must be accompanied in the vehicle with a passenger older than 25 years old, or a passenger that has a valid California driver’s license. De Toledo was driving with children as passengers, police and witnesses told the Pasadena Star-News.
De Toledo said she didn’t know her car had hit Kwai-Ling Hong until she’d parked in her home’s driveway. "I parked my car and as I walk to my door I noticed there was someone in the street and another man yelling in my direction. I thought the guy that was yelling in my direction was going to hurt me or my kids," said de Toledo. "A guy in the street and another one yelling and coming towards us; I didn't know what was going on."
"I've told this to police and I’ll tell this to anyone: I don't recall seeing [Hong],” de Toledo added. “The fact that someone lost his life has affected me. I walk a lot with my kids. That could have been me.”
De Toledo claims that she has not been approached by investigators since the questioning that took place right after the incident. “I remain open to complying with the ongoing investigation,” said de Toledo. “I agree with Detective Julian. I want to bring closure to everyone, because all our lives have been affected by the incident.”
She said she is a legal resident and has been living in Alhambra since 2014.
Her statements were translated from Spanish.
Kwai-Ling Hong, an 80-year-old resident who’d lived in Alhambra for over three decades, was struck and killed by a minivan on Jan 7.
For the Hong family, this was not just a tragedy, but also the start of a series of frustrating dealings with local law enforcement.
George Hong, son of Kwai-Ling Hong, said his family initially had to rely on the internet to learn of their father’s death, not local authorities.
On the day of the incident, members of the Hong family grew worried when Kwai-Ling did not return from a routine walk. George’s wife noticed a crime scene investigation near Kwai-Ling’s home, and approached officers to give a description of her father-in-law. An officer implied that the description matched that of the victim on the scene, and told the Hong family to wait to be contacted by authorities. “They told us that a police officer would come by the house to talk to us,” said George. The Hong family waited through the night but no one came. After reading online that his father was involved in the incident, George Hong called the Monterey Park Police Department and got confirmation that his father had died.
It was difficult for the family to get further information because, according to George, the detective assigned to the case was off-duty from Friday through Sunday; the incident happened on a Thursday. George said he doesn’t understand why some of the caseload wasn’t passed to someone who was readily available. “It felt like the whole investigation came to a halt until Monday,” said George. “Overall I thought it could have been handled better at the start of the investigation.”
The Source asked MPPD Detective Robert Julian, who was assigned to the case, why the MPPD hadn’t contacted the Hong family on the day of the incident. He said he couldn’t comment on the matter.
“The case is still under investigation. It will be sent to the [district attorney] once it’s over,” said Julian.
The MPPD is in charge of the investigation because Hong was struck in Monterey Park before being dragged into Alhambra. The driver has been identified by EGP News as 33-year-old, Alhambra resident Cecilia Morales de Toledo. De Toledo’s minivan struck Hong at the intersection of Hellman and Hathaway Avenues. She allegedly kept driving for a half mile until she reached home. Investigators said the driver appeared to not know that Hong had been dragged by the vehicle. No arrests or citations were made at the time of the incident.
At an Alhambra City Council meeting on Feb 8, Kwai-Ling Hong’s family and neighbors revealed more of their frustration. They alleged that de Toledo’s car was returned to her after it was taken in for investigation, and that she was still driving the vehicle. Moreover, they claimed they heard rumors that de Toledo didn’t have a license, even at the time of the incident. “As a resident of Alhambra, I’m concerned that the person who did this will go unpunished,” Catherine Hennigan told the city council.
Police Chief Mark Yokoyama spoke with the concerned parties and informed them to contact the Alhambra Police Department if de Toledo was seen driving again. On Feb 9, a resident contacted the APD and said that de Toledo was driving her minivan. Officers stopped her at the intersection of Fremont and Commonwealth and found that she did not have a license. She was given a citation and her car was impounded for 30 days. Authorities said that de Toledo had never been issued a license in the past.
The MPPD was alerted of the citation, according to Sergeant Gerald Johnson of the APD. “What relevance this will have for their investigation, that I don’t know at the moment,” said Johnson.
George Hong said that he calls the MPPD every week to get updates on the case. Reminiscing about his father, George described a man who was an active figure in the community. “He was very sociable in a way,” said George. “He says ‘Hi’ to everyone when he walks in the neighborhood.” He said that Kwai-Ling was a worldy man who'd once studied in Tokyo. Kwai-Ling also kept ties with Taiwan, the country from which he’d immigrated. “Him and his friends started a Taiwanese association. He even flew back to Taiwan to vote in important elections,” said George.
The Source is currently trying to get a statement from de Toledo.