MESA, AZ — A Valley woman, intent on getting justice for her deceased friend, was honored Tuesday by the Mesa Police Department for tracking down a suspected hit-and-run driver.
Peggy Rickard was given the Citizen Meritorious Service Award in a ceremony on Tuesday.
In March 2018, Mesa mom Erin Ruecklies got into a fender bender at the intersection of Higley and University roads. When she got out of her vehicle to check on the other driver, a passing SUV hit and killed her.
“I felt she was the daughter I didn't have,” said Rickard. “So when her death happened, it's been a huge void.”
Mesa Police Det. Ross Wiltrout has a surveillance camera image of the green SUV that left the scene of the crash, but not much more evidence.
“This particular case was very difficult,” Wiltrout said. Over the next few months, Mesa’s traffic officers went out and contacted many people who drove vehicles that matched the make and model without any luck.
Rickard posted photos of the SUV and her friend on her fridge. “I never left the house without touching Erin's picture and saying out loud, ‘I am still working for you baby girl.’”
Nine months after the crash, Rickard spotted what was now a familiar vehicle on the road. She pulled behind it, took pictures, and emailed the detective.
“My immediate reaction when I saw the picture was 'That's my vehicle.' Wait! Peggy sent me this. Where is she?’” Wiltrout said.
Det. Wiltrout immediately followed up, and he located both the SUV and the driver. That man 92-year-old Arthur White now faces a felony charge of failing to stay at the scene of an accident with an injury or death.