Trial begins for the man accused in a deadly 2020 Cape Coral Bridge hit-and-run

Published: January 5, 2022 4:29 PM EST
Updated: January 7, 2022 1:06 PM EST

A man charged with killing a man on a scooter in a hit-and-run crash is now on trial. 20-year-old Clody Gonzalez Vera is accused of leaving 21-year-old Austin Manke to die on the Cape Coral Bridge in February 2020.

At least two witnesses say they saw a wrecked car, matching the description of Gonzalez Vera’s black Nissan Altima, near the scene of the crash.

One witness told the jury today she thought it was odd to see the mirror dangling off the car. “I mean, you could just tell that something had kind of just happened. I mean, you know, whether it was recent, or you know, you could tell that it had kind of just been in a wreck, a fresh wreck. I mean, just the way that the mirror was, and the bumper and the front end and everything. It just kind of seemed odd that someone would be driving around a vehicle that was, you know, that damaged, I guess.”

The witness’ description is consistent with how Florida Highway Patrol troopers found the car.

2015 Nissan Altima impounded by FHP. Credit: FHP.

RELATED: Suspect arrested in deadly Cape Coral Bridge hit-and-run

The court also heard from an emotional witness who did not see the crash but dialed 911 when she came upon the scene while driving.

The witness, who did not want to be identified, described seeing Manke’s body as “entangled” in his moped and said he was unresponsive.

That same witness later described seeing a black car near the scene. A car belonging to the defendant Gonzalez Vera.

Gonzalez Vera’s boss Kim Davis also took the stand. She said he texted her saying he couldn’t come into work saying he blew a tire and hit a wall on the bridge.

Prosecutors asked her, “when you received these text messages did alarm bells go off?”

Davis said, “only because I received an alert from WINK News about a hit and run crash. So it was like, are they related?”

The emotion of Manke’s family in the courtroom was palpable when his clothes were shown to the jury, and that witness who called 911 wiped away tears when her phone call was replayed.

The prosecution presented evidence including a large part of the bumper of Gonzalez Vera’s car.

Corporal Timothy Wargo with Florida Highway Patrol identified traces of light green paint on the bumper that he says could have been transferred from Manke’s green moped.

“All of the vehicle parts appeared to be consistent with a singular black vehicle and other parts from a distinct lime green moped,” said Wargo.

Troopers say vera was driving a black 2015 Nissan Altima over the bridge when the Nissan hit the back of the scooter Manke was riding. Vera fled the scene, and Manke was pronounced dead by first responders.

The trial will resume on Thursday.

Austin Paul Manke, 21. Credit: Shared with WINK News.