Zachary Parke

Santa Cruz, d. 8.June.2011, killed by hit and run driver.

        Parke Zachary Parke

Body found near UCSC campus likely victim of hit and run

By Stephen Baxter

Santa Cruz Sentinel, June 8, 2011

SANTA CRUZ - The body of a 25-year-old Santa Cruz bicyclist was found about 8 a.m. Wednesday just off Empire Grade Road at the edge of the UC Santa Cruz campus, the CHP reported.

California Highway Patrol officers are investigating the death as a hit and run, said CHP officer Tyler Pudge. The victim's mother identified her son, Zachary Parke, as the man on the bike.

Parke was riding from a friend's home on or near the UCSC campus to the house he shared with his mother near Morrissey Boulevard, his friends said. He was not a UCSC student but was a Santa Cruz native who graduated from Santa Cruz High School.

"Everyone who knows him knows how gentle and kind he was," said his mother, April Parke. "Everyone loved him because he was just such a sweet guy."

The body was found on Empire Grade Road north of Highview Drive by another cyclist who noticed clothing and debris in the road, Pudge said.

Pudge said the driver of a burgundy Nissan or Infiniti is suspected of hitting the cyclist on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. Pieces of the car's headlight were found at the scene, as well as paint chips, bicycle parts and other debris.

The dark, seven-speed road bike was found overturned in some bushes a few feet from the road on the southbound shoulder. Officers believe the car and bicycle were traveling south toward Santa Cruz during the collision.

The bike was found about 1/8 mile north of the Arboretum and Highview Drive. The man's body was found about 20 feet from the bicycle. Emergency responders declared him dead at the scene.

Law enforcement officers are looking for the car and driver. CHP officer Sarah Jackson said the Nissan or Infiniti likely has a damaged headlight, side mirror, fender or other damaged areas on its front end.

The road where the collision took place is not lit at night. It's unknown if the bicyclist was wearing a helmet, Pudge said.

Parke was a bicycle courier who was starting a business that sold rock-climbing bags. He was an avid rock climber who often traveled to Yosemite and other climbing spots.

"He's hooked into the climbing community," said family friend Mira Makenna. "He was such a beautiful human being. It's very, very sad."

Makenna added that he was interested in raw food and loved animals.

He is survived by his 32-year-old sister, Elizabeth Parke of Los Angeles and his mother, April Parke of Santa Cruz.

Parke's family and friends appealed to the public to help identify the car and its driver.

What can I say about Zack?

He was an exceptional human being.

When I first met him, and he told me he wanted to be a Clutch Courier, I wasn't convinced that the skinny kid I saw in line with the bushels of lettuce and avocado would have what it takes to get the job done.

But he kept pestering me, and I told him if he took my old Italvega road bike (with gears and brakes) instead of his fixed gear bike, he could have the job. Over the years he became my most reliable rider.

Zachary loved mountain climbing and spent most of his weekends in Bishop or Yosemite. When he came back down off the mountain I could still see it in his eyes.

Here was a man who had found a way to get as close to God as possible, and he wrapped his whole life around getting back up there as often as he could. Sometimes that competed with my priorities as a business owner, but I had to give it to him, and it was a joy to see someone pursue their dream so completely.

Zack always looked for and pointed out the good things in people and in life. He exemplified them, too, always having the time to listen to you and the generosity to offer a friendly, encouraging perspective.

He poured himself fully into the life of his choosing, and we have to give him that. I keep expecting to pick up the phone and hear his voice on the other side, "Hey Rick, it's Zack. Made the drop with Jim, postering all done, keys are back. I'm off to climb Half-Dome!"

Copy that, Good Buddy. Except this time you don't have to come back down off the mountain.

 - Rick Graves, Clutch Couriers

Driver Accused Of Killing Zachary Parke Near UCSC Pleads Guilty, February 9, 2012
 A Live Oak man accused of killing bicyclist Zachary Parke in a hit-and-run crash near the University of California at Santa Cruz pleaded guilty on Thursday.
Elliot Sterling Dess, 21, reversed his not guilty plea as part of a deal with prosecutors.
Inside a Santa Cruz courtroom Thursday morning, Dess looked at Parke's mother and quietly said, "I'm guilty. I'm very sorry."
Parke, 25, of Santa Cruz , was killed while riding his bicycle just after midnight on June, 8 2011. Parke was leaving UCSC's campus after hanging out with friends who were students there.
He was struck on Empire Grade Road while peddling in an 8-foot wide bike lane. Parke was experienced at navigating Santa Cruz 's road on two wheels because he worked as a bicycle messenger for Clutch Couriers.
Dess immediately fled the scene by driving away in his parent's burgundy Nissan Maxima, the California Highway Patrol said.
Parke's mangled bicycle and body were found later that morning in high brush along Empire Grade Road, the main route leading in and out of UCSC.
Dess will receive a two year prison sentence. The judge said he plans to give Dess a relatively short sentence for felony hit-and-run and misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter because he is young, admitted guilt, and had no prior criminal record.
Dess could be released from prison in one year for good behavior, the judge said. Parke's mother, April Parke, expressed relief in court after Dess pleaded guilty.
"Dess is finally taking responsibility for the unfathomable and inhumane act of killing Zachary and leaving him on the side of the road to die," April Parke said. "I don't think any (prison sentence) is just unless it can bring Zachary back."
Dess' older brother, Benjamin Dess, 24, of Santa Cruz , is also living in the Santa Cruz jail. He has been behind bars since July 2011 and is charged with selling drugs and beating up another inmate in jail.