Death on Dayton Road
Somebody ran over and killed Kris Garrett early one morning, but who?
He was an avid reader. An artist. He liked to skateboard and ride BMX bikes. His bedroom is exactly as he left it: Iron Maiden posters alongside SpongeBob and Superman posters, a skateboard leaning up against one wall, and an unmade bed, the covers thrown to one side, as if he might have slept there last night.
But Kristopher Luis Garrett hasn’t occupied that bed for more than a month.
Not since the night of May 24, three days before his 18th birthday. That was the last time his mother saw him, walking toward his room as she was about to go to sleep.
She went to work the next day before he got up, and by the time she returned he was gone—off to hang out with his friends, she assumed.
That night, in the wee hours of the morning, a car hit her son as he was walking along Dayton Road, about a mile south of Chico. Whoever was driving it didn’t stop, and Kris Garrett was left to die by the side of the road.
Today, six weeks later, police still don’t know who hit him, and nobody has come forward with information.
Exactly how Kris Garrett died remains a mystery.
For Kris, May 25, a Saturday, began like any other day. Excited about the imminent arrival of summer and his high-school graduation on June 13, he went to Madison Bear Garden for a birthday celebration early in the day. He hung out with his sister, Lillian, and later met up with friends at the train tracks before going to a party on Stanley Avenue, off Dayton Road.
Minutes before four o’clock in the morning, Kris made some calls from his cell phone. One was to his mother, but it didn’t go through. Another was to his girlfriend.
Twenty-five minutes later, a motorcyclist found him lying by the road, bleeding from the head and neck. He was dead before the paramedics arrived.
Although his family has not received toxicology reports yet, the police have projected that Garrett was three times over the legal limit of alcohol and also had marijuana in his system.
Police believe he’d been lying in the middle of the road when he was hit. His body showed signs of being run over, they’ve said. He also had grease marks on him and a punctured lung.
“For an unknown reason, Kristopher Garrett was laying down in the middle of Dayton Road, most likely due to his intoxication,” said CHP Officer Paul Sadowski, who has assisted in the investigation.
“It’s sad that a 17-year-old would be out that late participating in those kinds of activities.”
Kris’ family isn’t buying it.
“My son wouldn’t just be someone that was just lying in the road,” insisted his mother, Elizabeth Morse, who’s 39, a drug and alcohol counselor at the Skyway House, a residential treatment center, and the single mother of five children, including Kris.
She’d arranged pictures of a young, happy and sweet-faced Kris around a wooden urn, and a poster-size image of him leaned against a wall. He was a handsome kid with bright eyes and a sweet, close-lipped smile framed by two dimples.
Morse broke down only once while speaking of her son, whom she called an “amazing young man,” kind and dependable. “He was just a good kid,” she said.
He was playful and funny. He liked videogames, skating, biking and going to Bidwell Park. He loved to read, especially Dean Koontz and Harry Potter.
Morse’s worst nightmare came true at 6:30 a.m. on May 26, when police officers showed up at her door, asking if she was the mother of Kristopher Luis Garrett.
“ ‘Yes, please tell me he’s okay,’ “ she replied. “ ‘No, he’s dead.’ And that’s exactly what they said.”
Lillian Garrett, 19, a full-time student at Butte College, said it was hard to talk about her brother. They were only 15 months apart and close. She’s going to miss going to concerts with Kris, who, she said, “protected me.”
Kris’ best friend was Jasper Smith. In a phone interview, he said Kris’ death was “probably one of the hardest things I have ever had to deal with.
“I wake up thinking about it,” he said. “I think about it before I go to sleep. Everything reminds me of him somehow.”
Smith moved to San Diego in March, which was the last time he saw his friend, whom he described as “very serious,” someone who “took everything in stride” and always walked away with a lesson.
The site on Dayton Road where Kris Garrett was found is located between Stanley and Marian avenues. These days it’s covered with flowers and pictures. His family visits regularly, making sure there are always fresh flowers. More and more people are adding memorabilia to the spot. A candle-lit vigil was held the day he died, and more than 50 people attended. They had another vigil on June 26, a month to the day later.
Police say there was “no evidence at all” to assist the investigation into Kris’ death. Officer Sadowski says they have one lead to a car, but that’s all.
For Kris’ mother, whether the responsible party is found is neither here nor there.
“I really, truly believe what happened was an accident,” Morse said. “To me, it is not such an issue as it is to other people around me. It’s not gonna bring my son back, that’s all I know.”
Smith, however, wants to know what happened.
“Turn yourselves in,” he said, addressing the car’s occupants. “Please. We need some form of closure. His family didn’t deserve this. He didn’t deserve this.”
Sadowski said that if those responsible had remained on the scene and had not caused the accident, they most likely would have been released. It was dark and Garrett was wearing dark clothing.
Even if the driver had been drinking, he said, he or she would have received only a misdemeanor DUI citation, Sadowski said.
For now, Kris’ family is taking it one day at a time. Some days are better than others, Morse said. “I know he wouldn’t want us to fall apart.
“Like I tell parents, just love your children every day that you can,” Morse said. “Don’t let them walk out that door without telling them how much you love them, and don’t take it ever for granted. We don’t know what tomorrow might bring.”