Victim’s family struggles with hit-and-run aftermath

Editor’s note: This story was chosen as one of our top 12 in 2010. Many of our readers have asked us what happened to Eric Murillo since this story was printed. In May 2010, Murillo pled guilty to vehicular homicide in the death of Jerome Dumlao. On June 25, Murillo was sentenced in King County Superior Court to 4 1/2 years in prison. He was given the maximum sentence allowed under state law for the crime.

Wedding photo of Jerome Dumlao and his wife, Marie Linavat

By Jacklyn Tran
Northwest Asian Weekly

More than a month after a hit-and-run incident that killed 30-year-old Jerome Dumlao, officers are still investigating and a family is still in mourning.

According to court documents, around 2:20 a.m. on Dec. 6, Dumlao was walking in a marked crosswalk in downtown Seattle at Western Avenue and Bell Street when accused suspect Eric Murillo, 24, came to a stop in his vehicle. He knocked the pedestrian down and ran him over before leaving the scene. Shortly after, he was apprehended after driving the wrong way down a one-way street while under the influence of alcohol.

This incident, although occurring over just a few brief minutes, turned the lives of many upside down. Investigators are continuing to ask questions about what happened that fateful morning.

At a hearing the following day on Dec. 7, Murillo was charged with vehicular homicide and felony hit-and-run by King County prosecutors, with the judge setting bail at $500,000. A bail hearing followed on Dec. 28 and resulted in a lowering of the bail amount to $150,000 with conditions.

“He’s not allowed to be at any venue with alcohol,” said a source speaking on the condition of anonymity. “He’s not able to drive without a breathalyzer attached to his car and is to have no contact with the Dumlao family.”

At the hearing, the defendant’s attorney listed reasons his client would not be at a flight risk, which included the fact that he was a student, a DJ, and involved in the community.

“He was deejaying the night of [the accident],” said the source.

On Dec. 31, a few hours before the New Year, the Dumlao family was notified by an electronically recorded phone call that Murillo posted bail and was released from jail.

“It was a rough new years,” said the victim’s brother, Jeff Dumlao. “Now it’s just a waiting game to see when the next court date is.” Past cases of vehicular homicide show a sentencing structure with a maximum sentence of 10 to 12 years.

Reflecting on this, Jeff Dumlao said, “He’d be out around [age] 34 and [will] still be able to get on with his life. My brother can’t walk out of the hospital and continue on, but [Murillo] can. It’s frustrating.”

Regrets, guilt, anger, and sorrow are constant feelings filtering through the minds of the Dumlao family who are set on working to figure out how to stop this from happening to others.

“We don’t want my brother to be another statistic,” said Jeff Dumlao. “Drinking and driving is a problem. People need to know there are consequences. Once you’re impaired, you can hurt yourself and others. Stricter laws are needed because right now, it’s a slap on the wrist. The message being sent is unacceptable.

“[My brother] was a good person. It’s not one life that’s been ruined — many lives are ruined. Even [Murillo’s] own family is probably in pain. One person’s decision rocked the life of many because of [his] decision to drink and drive.”

Jerome Dumlao was described by friends and family as a life-loving person who enjoyed making people laugh. He was caring and enjoyed cooking for his wife of just over a year and always showed concern for others.

“We were as close as brothers can be. In 1996, our dad died of diabetes. We came together to take care of my sister and mom. When I look at an old family portrait now, two of them are gone and I wonder how this happened. We wanted to travel. We wanted our kids to grow up together.

And that’s all gone. The devastation is immeasurable. Maybe if he had been sick, it would be easier, but to violently have him taken, that’s another thing.

“Until the day I die, I’m going to feel the hurt that my brother is gone. That part of me will always be missing.”

Though cameras are numerous throughout the city streets, the busy intersection of Western Avenue and Bell Street is without one. The intersection includes a freeway entrance that runs through and a busy Belltown nightclub that lets out nearby. Investigators are left only with a handful of witnesses who’ve stepped forward to give details of what happened.

“With a camera in the area, it would have helped show what was going on. I know if there had been one, it would have caught something and we’d be left with more than just hearsay,” said the anonymous source.

Police believe that there are more witnesses who may be scared to come forward. Anyone who was at the scene or has any information is urged to contact the police.

Murillo could not be reached for comment. ♦

Read our previous coverage here

Jacklyn Tran can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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