Teen was changing his life around | NevadaAppeal.com

Teen was changing his life around

by F.T. Norton
Appeal Staff Writer

Robert De La O, 16, was killed in a rollover accident Saturday.

Robert De La O may have been a troublemaker last year, but he was turning his life around, his sister said Tuesday.

“He took his problems seriously. He was changing,” said Janet De La O, 21.

On Monday, when De La O was supposed to begin classes at Pioneer High School and start a new job at Target for money to raise a daughter expected in January, his family was instead planning his funeral.

The 16-year-old sophomore was killed in a rollover accident following a high-speed chase in Dayton and Storey County on Saturday night, officials said.

Two Dayton men, Randy Boyd, a 22-year-old married father, and Darin Vandenberg, also 22, are in jail charged in De La O’s death.

And Storey County investigators are left trying to figure out what happened.

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There was a fight at the Occidental Mini Mart between De La O, at least three friends and the Dayton men prior to the accident, said Sgt. Jason Dias of the Storey County Sheriff’s Department.

It’s unclear who started the fight or what it was about, said Detective Tony Dosen.

Dosen hopes surveillance footage from the convenience store will shed light on the incident.

What they do know is De La O and his friends got into a verbal argument that ended in a physical confrontation with Boyd and Vandenberg, he said.

At some point, the two groups left the parking lot.

Investigators say De La O’s Lincoln Continental was being chased by Boyd’s pickup.

About 10 p.m., one-quarter mile up Six Mile Canyon Road from Mark Twain, the Lincoln hit a guard rail and overturned on a bridge. De La O died at the scene.

Jose Elizondo, 16, was taken by helicopter to a Reno Hospital. Two other 16-year-old teens fled the wreckage and were later found with injuries at a home on Pony Express Trail.

Boyd and Vandenberg also allegedly fled. The battered pickup was found in Boyd’s Mark Twain garage. The hood was buckled and the driver’s side caved in.

The men admitted they were at the accident and there was probable cause for arrest, a judge determined Monday.

Dias said a preliminary investigation indicates Boyd should be charged with at least one count each of reckless driving causing death or substantial bodily harm and failure to stop at the scene of an accident involving death or personal injury. Vandenberg should be charged with failure to stop at the scene of an accident involving death or personal injury. Both men are being held on suspicion of hit and run causing death.

Janet De La O said she isn’t sure what happened Saturday at the mini mart, but she knows with Robert being one of eight children, there are siblings and friends grieving everywhere.

And, she noted, there’s his unborn daughter, Aaliyalashea.

His girlfriend, Carla Roman, also 16, said Robert was excited about the baby, and always encouraged her to take care of herself for the baby’s sake.

“He was my backbone,” Carla said. “He was always there for me, and he was always saying, ‘You should eat.'”

Carla and a friend drove up to the scene of the accident Tuesday evening to erect a memorial of flowers, candles and photographs.

She’s nervous about raising a baby alone, but she’s sure of what she’ll tell her daughter about the father she’ll never meet.

“He was a respected man and he loved us a lot. He’s always going to be watching over us.”

Carson High School Principal Fred Perdomo said Robert De La O had struggled his freshman year, but was transferring to Pioneer High School, an alternative high school that would be easier to attend while trying to raise a family.

“He was getting himself turned around,” the principal said. “He was a very polite young man. Always very truthful, very respectful. He was really a fine boy with a lot of fine qualities.”

Perdomo said De La O may have had some gang affiliations in the past as suggested by Carson City Sheriff’s deputies, but De La O was severing his ties with that community.

“I don’t believe he was involved in that anymore. That was part of one of the steps toward moving on with his life,” he said.

• Contact reporter F.T. Norton at ftnorton@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1213.