TAHOMA, Calif. — Have they caught him yet?
That’s a question Robyn Genest of Tahoma said she is asked a lot. Her son, Matthew “Laddie” Hodge, 65, was the victim of a hit-and-run accident last April while using the pedestrian crosswalk at Grove Street in Tahoe City, suffering major injuries.
While the driver hasn’t been caught, Genest isn’t giving up hope on finding the one responsible for hurting her son.
“(He’s) probably left (the area) by now, but I feel there’s somebody that must have seen him, must know him,” she said.
Using her own money, Genest is offering a $1,000 reward to anyone with information leading to the arrest and conviction of the driver.
“(I) just hope that somebody will come forward,” she said.
As of Thursday morning, there is no suspect in the case, said Pete Mann, public information officer for the California Highway Patrol.
“(There’s) not a lot of leads to go on,” he said.
After the hit-and-run, a witness statement was taken describing the vehicle as a dark wagon, possibly a Subaru. A license plate frame piece was found at the crime scene, leading authorities to a Truckee auto repair shop where the vehicle may have been serviced.
A list of 700 cars were drawn up and all their VIN numbers were checked to vet out the dark-colored vehicles. As of today, more than 50 vehicles have been investigated, Mann said.
“Every lead has turned into a dead end,” he said.
The investigation is still open, and anyone with information is encouraged to contact Truckee CHP at 530-582-7570 and ask for Office Patton.
The road to recovery
In the meantime, Hodge has been busy recovering from the accident, with Genest by his side every step of the way.
“I went flying,” Hodge recalled of the impact, his words tumbling out of his mouth. “Talk about being scared. My heart was just pounding. I felt like I was going to die.”
Hodge suffered a broken shoulder, broken ribs, torn right leg ligaments, fractures, a broken pelvis, a broken femur, a broken knee and ankle. He also had many scrapes and abrasions, Genest said.
Both Genest and Hodge credit Kentaro Matsuura, who was staying in a nearby hotel and heard the crash, for saving Hodge’s life by quickly summoning help.
Hodge was first taken to Renown Regional Hospital in Reno, where he stayed for about a week and a half, getting X-rays and undergoing surgeries, before being transferred to Westview Healthcare Center in Auburn to start his rehabilitation.
“It was hard, but I did it,” Hodge said. “… They (the therapists) worked with me and very soon I got stronger — stronger and stronger, each (and) every time.”
Over a six-month period at Westview, Hodge went from being in a wheelchair to using a walker and then a cane before walking on his own with a professional spotting him. His progress is all captured on film, contained in a binder at the family’s home.
‘LADDIE IS AN INSTITUTION’
During Hodge’s recovery, Genest traveled the nearly 180-mile round-trip to Westview every week to see her son. Others also paid visits to Hodge, and those who couldn’t called, brought gifts and sent cards and well wishes.
“It made me feel good right in my heart,” said Hodge, who is a well-known member of the community.
“Laddie is an institution in Tahoe City,” said David “Johnny B” Rutter, owner of Pete ‘N Peters in Tahoe City. “Everyone knows him and recognizes his laugh.”
In early November 2012, Hodge was able to return home, where he was thrown a welcome home party at Pete ‘N Peters that doubled as a fundraising effort. A total of $2,795 was raised toward his medical expenses.
Genest said her son’s recovery has cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, with insurance covering most, but not all of the expenses.
Once home, Hodge continued his therapy at Tahoe Forest Therapy Services in Tahoe City for about six weeks before continuing his exercises — which includes weights, an exercise pedal machine and a workout bar — in the comfort of the home he shares with his mom.
After nearly a year after the hit-and-run, Hodge is able to walk on his own — although with a limp, favoring his right leg. He can go up stairs and perform light household chores such as watering plants, doing laundry and taking out the trash.
“I think he is doing great,” said Sara Erdmann, a neighbor to Hodge and Genest. “I think it’s a wonder that he’s walking around.”
“Laddie is a fighter,” said Rutter, adding that Hodge is a good, friendly guy who’s always willing to talk.
Genest credits Hodge’s character.
“He’s always been a very active person and a hard worker,” she said.
Yet, due to his injuries, Hodge will not be able to return to work, something that he loved to do and was recognized for at Squaw Valley, garnering five employee of the month awards over 27 years of service.
At a recent event that Genest attended, she recalled how she was chatting with a local man, who inquired how Hodge was doing.
“I’m still taking care of Laddie, and he said, ‘We all are,’” she recalled. “That’s the attitude of the community — that they look after Laddie, too.”