Man sought after brother-in-law killed by truck at Gwinnett Christmas party

Credit: Gwinnett County Police Department

Credit: Gwinnett County Police Department

A pedestrian was killed after his brother-in-law struck him with a pickup truck during a family squabble at a Christmas party early Saturday morning in unincorporated Lawrenceville, according to police.

Gwinnett County police are investigating the fatal crash as a homicide and detectives said they want to question the driver, identified Saturday night as Ernesto Pelayo, 34, of Lilburn. Pelayo was the brother-in-law of the victim, Juan Davila, 41, of Lawrenceville, according to police spokesperson Sgt. Michele Pihera.

Pelayo has active warrants on charges of felony murder and aggravated assault, Pihera said. He was seen fleeing the scene in a black Dodge Ram 3500 with Georgia license plate TAT2291, according to authorities.

The incident occurred about 5:15 a.m. along Great Oaks Drive at the intersection of Windsor Oak Circle, according to Pihera. Pelayo was gone by the time officers responded to reports that a pedestrian was struck by a vehicle, Pihera said. They found Davila lying in the intersection with grave injuries. Davila was rushed to a hospital, where he died.

Araceli Davila, who identified herself as the daughter of Juan Davila, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution by email that the family can only hope for justice.

“My father had the kindest heart. He helped everyone he could. He was there for everyone and always had a loving smile,” Araceli Davila said. “He truly had a heart of gold and was incapable of holding a grudge. He loved my mother, my siblings and I with all his heart and he was always there for us.”

Crash investigators arrived at the scene and quickly gathered information that elevated the case to a homicide investigation. That’s when crime scene analysts and homicide detectives were called.

According to detectives, the two men attended a Christmas party at a nearby home Friday night. At some point, they got into a physical fight in the backyard that spilled into the street.

Police said Pelayo got into his car while Davila was in the road. Witnesses told detectives Pelayo struck Davila with his truck and drove away. Police determined Pelayo hit his brother-in-law intentionally.

Investigators are still trying to determine what set off the fight between the two men and how they both ended up in the road, according to Pihera.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Ernesto Pelayo is asked to call 911 or Crime Stoppers at 404-577-8477. Those with information on the incident are asked to contact Gwinnett County police detectives at 770-513-5300.

— Please return to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for updates.