Little Ethan Maldonado was playing outside his home in Austin, Texas when his life came to an abrupt end. He was run over by a driver who didn’t care about hitting him when they cowardly took off, leaving the toddler’s body dead on the road. A few days later, the child killer got a surprise they weren’t expecting.
Ethan Hernandez was killed in East Austin when, police said, Ethan was legally crossing the street with his family when he was fatally hit by a truck.
“The light turned red, and the walking signal turned for us to cross. Then my kid ran across, the pickup didn’t yield and hit my kid and dragged him underneath,” explains Carlos Hernandez, Ethan’s father.
The toddler was taken to Dell Children’s Medical Center and pronounced dead less than an hour after the incident, police said. His body was taken to Affordable Burial and Cremation Service.
Robert Falcon, who owns Affordable Burial and Cremation Service, has buried many people and helped families through this most difficult day of saying goodbye to a loved one. Although he’s seen more than his fair share of tragedy, this 3-year-old’s death hit him particularly hard, especially when he saw the little boy’s photo that was to go on display at his service.
Falcon had just spent the last several hours consoling the child’s family and preparing the little boy for burial when he was overcome with emotion and felt something needed to be done about it.
Knowing that Ethan’s killer was still at large as he sat with the boy’s mourning mom who would never get her toddler back, Falcon turned to social media with a strong message for the person who took this kid’s life.
“We shouldn’t have had to been there, we shouldn’t have had to been in a church, there shouldn’t have had to been a 3-year-old boy laying in a casket, there shouldn’t have to have been a mom and dad lamenting and bargaining with God and in pain,” Falcon said in part on Facebook, of this boy’s senseless death because of another person’s actions.
“I spent most of the night Monday and Tuesday morning getting this child ready for his mother and father to see him in a casket because of you. I want you to see these pictures, and I want you to know how much it pains me to know that you would run over a child and not stop to render aid,” Falcon wrote.
Ethan’s family gave permission for Falcon to post pictures of their son’s casket with the public message to his murderer. “I want that person to see the reality of what they created, it was not a pretty situation, and it wasn’t intended to be pretty at all,” Falcon said.
Falcon says he decided to offer a $2,500 reward after a week went by and no one was arrested.
“This is about a family who lost a son and it’s about finding that person who did this. You know who you are and you know what you did and all I’m asking you do is please come forward and give this family some closure,” he said.
Falcon’s friend then decided to offer an additional $2,500. They say they just want justice.
The search for the driver attracted considerable attention, especially after Robert Falcon personally organized the $5,000 reward for information on the truck’s driver.
After asking for the public’s help in finding the driver, police received an anonymous tip that someone in Pflugerville had spotted a white Chevrolet Silverado pickup like the one that hit Ethan. That tip led them to the truck’s owner and eventually to a man named Escalante-Vasquez.
The tipster provided police with a license plate number that returned to a truck matching the suspect truck description.
Detectives contacted the registered owner of the truck, who took police to its location in the 1100 block of Walnut Canyon in Pflugerville. Police confirmed it was the same truck involved in the crash that killed Ethan.