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Hit-and-Run Driver who Killed Bicyclist Zachary Parke Gets Two Years in Jail

The 21-year-old driver claimed to have hit a deer, but then pleaded guilty to the charges.

The prosecutor asked for three years in prison for Elliot Dess, 21, who struck and killed bicyclist Zachary Parke on Empire Grade last June.

But Judge Paul Burdick Monday gave Dess two years in County Jail, three years probation and 500 hours of community service.

Parke's family members spoke and showed a video at the sentencing, commemorating the life of the 26-year-old cyclist and rock climber.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel recounted testimony by Parke's mother, April Parke.

"Elliott, when you killed my son and left him to die, I wanted to kill you," she said. "But when I saw you walk into the courtroom in October I felt compassion for you.

"It may have been Zach," she added, pausing to smile. "I thought, he's just a human being. I believe you've been given a chance. If there is any way to make it up, you must learn to touch lives in a positive way."

Judge Burdick said he didn't think "warehousing" Dess in prison would help.

Instead, Dess must speak to high-school students about his experience and the dangers of reckless driving as part of his community service. He is prohibited from operating a motor vehicle throughout his probation.

Dess hit Parke after midnight on June 8, but the bicyclist wasn't discovered for eight hours by another passing cyclist.

From parts left behind, the Highway Patrol was looking for a maroon Nissan Maxima, which they later found parked behind a building on Delaware Avenue, after being alerted by a good Samaritan.

When police questioned Dess, he claimed to have hit a deer, but DNA evidence linked his car to the crime.

He later pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter and vehicular hit-and-run charges.

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