It's been nearly three months since 20-year-old . Since then, police have issued no new leads to the public and his family has grown increasingly concerned over whether the person responsible for his death will ever see justice.
“Nobody, I can't even believe that anybody, could keep that to themselves,” said Dixie Lester, . “It could happen to somebody else – if they don't care once, they won't care twice.”
Walden lived in Wilton, on a 10-acre property with his grandmother and family, nearly his entire life. He was a twin – his fraternal twin sister was born 20 minutes before him – and has been described as outgoing, funny and mechanically inclined. He was pronounced dead at the scene in the early morning hours of March 17, at the intersection of Elk Grove Boulevard and School Street. The Elk Grove Police Department is seeking leads from the public through its traffic bureau and Crime Alert, but have no vehicle or suspect description, as there apparently were no witnesses.
“Without witnesses or investigative leads (license plate number, description of driver and/or vehicle, physical evidence, etc.) hit and run collisions can be difficult to solve,” Elk Grove Police Department spokesman Chris Trim said in an email.
Walden's funeral was held shortly after his death, and since then, family members have started a reward fund, and created a Facebook page seeking information and a group page for friends and family to share their memories of “Jax.”
“Think about you every day. That contagious smile and goofy laugh still replay in my mind and heart,” Dyllan Depew wrote on the Facebook memory page wall.
Another friend, Christina Kominek, recalled his laughter and one of her last memories with Walden. “So we went to a bon fire the other night and the last one I was at you were there too,” Kominek wrote. “I couldn't help but think of where you were and when you were gonna get there. But even though you couldn't be there physically I know you were still there laughing and talking about cars. I miss you and love you. I can't wait to see you again one day.”
His grandmother described him as always willing to lend a hand. She recalled a story of a delivery truck that got stuck on the road nearby her property, and “he came home and got the tractor and got the guy out of a ditch,” Lester said. “If there was anybody anywhere, he could help him. If they needed a rock removed, he'd remove it with the tractor.”
But dealing with the unknown hasn't been easy. When the news hit, Walden's family was devastated.
“I can remember saying, 'Let me put my shoes on,' and I had to walk across the driveway,” Lester said of the day officials from the coroner's office notified the family. “And I had no idea what was going on. My son (his father) was on the floor–he couldn't get up.”
Hit-and-run cases present challenges to authorities
Without witnesses, video surveillance or vehicle debris left at the scene or any other substantial leads, law enforcement has no other option than to ask for tips from the public. And so far, no new leads have developed in the first hit-and-run fatality the Elk Grove Police Department has investigated since it was formed in 2006.
Speaking generally about hit-and-run cases, not to the Walden case, Sacramento Police Department spokesman Andrew Pettit said oftentimes, alcohol plays a role and witnesses are rare.
“The longer the case goes unsolved, the more difficult it is to solve,” he wrote in an email.
The detective leading the Walden investigation is on vacation, Trim said, and will return in mid-June. In the meantime, anyone with information is asked to call the Elk Grove Police Department Traffic Bureau at 916-478-8148 or leave an anonymous tip at Crime Alert, at 916-443-HELP.
Family facing reality
Walden wanted to become a mechanic and was looking into trade schools prior to his death. He was shredding large, earth-mover tires for the family business, learning to drive his grandfather's 18-wheeler and worked on friends' trucks when they needed fixing.
His friends still visit Walden's family, his aunt Diane Walden-Robertson said, but now it's to help his grandparents with yard work and to see if there's any news on the person responsible for his untimely death.
Mandy Collins, who dated Walden on-and-off for about a year, said he was best known for his personality and could join in any conversation and turn up the humor. “His friends were his family, and still are,” she wrote in an email. “We all miss him so much and still can't believe this happened...He was loved by so many people and he will always be in our hearts.”
His grandmother said that while reality is hard to swallow, she and her family know what it is. “I know that you can't curl up in a hole in the ground, you can't dump this stuff on your friends, but it's something you don't want to literally live with 24 hours a day,” Lester said.
She's stuck in two stages of grief–anger and denial–and will likely stay there until there's some sort of resolution, she said. “Right now it seems like nobody is interested enough to care. And my head is swimming,” Lester said. Acceptance isn't coming so easily.
Her biggest hope is that someone comes forward with information, so the family can have some sense of finality, resolution and answers. People can donate to the Jackson A. Walden Memorial Fund through Wells Fargo Bank; the fund has raised about $2,000 so far.
In the meantime, Lester is coping with the ongoing grief that plagues her heart and mind–and waiting.
“I can tell you I have not cried–I can't and I won't–and that's the absolute truth.”
To donate to the family's memorial fund, walk into any Wells Fargo branch and give the teller the account name, the Jackson A. Walden Memorial Fund.