HENDERSON, Nev. (KLAS) — A Las Vegas-area driver racing down a residential road hit a bump and lost control, killing a 13-year-old boy on the sidewalk. The 8 News Now Investigators found in the years before, several cars had hit the same obstacle and landed where Rex Patchett lay motionless.
For months, the 8 News Now Investigators have reviewed documents and video connected to the March 7, 2022, fatal crash.
“The fear that every parent has when they have children had come true,” Jason Patchett, Rex’s dad, said from his Henderson home nearly two years after the crash that killed his son. Rex was walking home from a friend’s house with the help of a scooter when Jose Marmolejo, then 21 years old, collided with him.
March 7, 2022
Body camera video shows a Henderson police officer rushing to Rex’s aid as an off-duty nurse tries to revive the eighth grader. Marmolejo’s Ford Mustang jumped the sidewalk, becoming a four-wheeled missile.
“Rex was not responding to our calls or texts or anything like that and we kept trying to ping his phone through the Find My Phone app and it just kept saying offline,” Jason Patchett said about that Monday evening.
While Rex’s phone lay desperate for an answer, an officer’s body camera records as he and his colleague begin their investigation.
“They hit the bump over here,” one officer says in the video.
“What bump?” another replies.
“You know how we have the bump in the hill over here?” the first officer says.
“The bump,” sometimes referred to in the neighborhood as “Mannion’s Bump” or “Mannion’s Hump,” was an unplanned ridge in the road that became a favorite for racers. Its location on Paradise Hills Drive near Noble Isle Street allowed drivers to go airborne.
The car that hit Rex lost control and ended up on the sidewalk in front of Mannion Middle School, where hundreds of students attend class.
Video shared with the 8 News Now Investigators shows cars driving at the 35-mph speed limit riding up and down from the bump. Evidence of the bump’s damage is marked on the pavement.
Marmolejo was driving more than 90 miles per hour, police said.
Officer: So, what was going on man?
Marmolejo: We were — we were going fast. We were just kind of —
Officer: I know there’s that little bump there I know —
Marmolejo: Bump —
Officer: Right, from when you hit that bump it just —
Marmolejo’s car hit the bump, landed on the pavement, popped a tire, and ended up right in Rex’s path.
“Rex was standing about 150 yards away on the sidewalk and he had no chance,” Jason Patchett said.
No chance of making it home to greet his parents, brothers, and sister.
“The bump caused the vehicle to lose control and go up on the sidewalk and kill my son,” Jason Patchett said.
It happened before
The 8 News Now Investigators filed several records requests with the city of Henderson, finding the bump was no secret. For years, neighbors had complained about the road and constant speeding. Many of those complaints cited the sidewalk and Mannion Middle School’s location in the path of an out-of-control driver.
A crash in 2021 was almost identical to the one that killed Rex.
“They were going really fast, and they hit that dip and that car spun out,” a witness told a police officer investigating the 2021 crash. The driver hit the same bump and lost control. The car landed upside down with the two people inside left to crawl out, documents said.
Documents the 8 News Now Investigators obtained reveal a witness told police the car “hit the bump” and flipped.
“So, they hit the dip there and — there should be an impact mark right here,” the investigating officer says on body camera video.
There would be other marks to capture too.
In 2018, a car landed in the same place – also a victim of the same soon-to-be-deadly obstacle. Its driver told police he “did not see [the] large bump in [the] road – went airborne,” documents said.
In 2019, a car ended up just feet from where Rex would lie three years later, a crash report said. Its driver told police he “took his dad’s car for a joy ride” when he totaled it.
“If the bump had not been there would Rex be here today?” 8 News Now Investigator David Charns asked Jason Patchett.
“But for the bump, we would not be talking,” he said. “I 100 percent believe that.”
Complaints to the city about the road and the bump include one from a neighbor who wrote to the city about “a serious chronic problem,” calling Paradise Hills Drive “a drag strip.”
“It was not part of the design,” Gordon Meth, highway engineering practice group leader for Robson Forensic, said. Meth investigates crashes and the roads where they happen.
“In this case, when used at the appropriate speed, it’s uncomfortable but it doesn’t seem to create a hazard, from what I saw in the video,” Meth said about the images of the bump from before Rex’s death.
Meth highlighted drivers’ speeds in the crashes in the area.
Henderson police would later cite Marmolejo for reckless driving.
Officer: Hey Jose, how fast would you say you were going? You can just give like an approximate.
Marmolejo: Uh — I would say 80 maybe.
Eighty was really 93 – almost three times the limit. The road was not designed for that kind of speed, Meth said, nor can prior crashes be enough notice to the city to do something about the now-deadly defect.
“Is that enough of a notice?” Charns asked.
“It’s got to be put in context with all other notices and priorities, it just has to be,” Meth said.
Henderson police respond to about 3,200 crashes in the city each year, a spokesperson said. Records the 8 News Now Investigators obtained show police respond to crashes near the area of Paradise Hills Drive and Mannion Middle School about every eight months, though not all involve the bump.
“Why does it take a fatal incident for some municipalities to make these fixes?” Charns asked.
“A lot of it has to do with taking your notice and your investigation and prioritizing what you have with the budget you have,” Meth said.
Two days after Rex’s death and after years of violent crashes involving the bump, a Henderson employee sent an email saying traffic engineers were “not aware of [the bump’s] existence.”
A few hours later, a public works employee said, “Let’s do bump ASAP,” as in fixing it. The city first added warning signs and then removed the bump in October 2022 at a cost of almost $150,000. The city also added a roundabout farther down Paradise Hills Drive to better pedestrian safety.
“Why do you think it took Rex’s death to fix the bump?” Charns asked Jason Patchett.
“Laziness. Complete utter laziness,” he said.
Around the time crews fixed the road, amid more cries from neighbors about reckless speeding, a Henderson police captain asked a lieutenant to develop a plan of action to combat speeding in the area. Crash investigators determined Marmolejo’s speed was the “primary factor” in the crash.
With repeat incidents before his son’s death, Jason Patchett said the bump is to blame.
“The bump was why my son isn’t sitting here today and why we’re having this conversation,” he said.
Nearly two years since Rex’s death, Jason Patchett said he avoids the road. A picture created from the last photo taken of rest, one his friend’s mother took of him before he walked home that night, turned into a painting in Patchett’s living room.
“He was kind, he just wanted to make you smile,” Jason Patchett said. “He’s waving at you, and letting you know that ‘I’m still here. I’m with you.’ And I firmly believe that.”
After several months of back-and-forth emails, the city of Henderson declined an interview request for this story.
In the days after the crash, neighbors emailed then-City Councilwoman now-Mayor Michelle Romero about fixing the bump.
“We have the family of the young man whose life was lost on Monday evening in our thoughts and prayers,” one email from Romero said to a concerned neighbor. “As a mother, I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to bear the pain of this heartbreaking loss.”
After a Henderson spokesperson declined a request to interview the mayor about the bump and Rex’s death, Charns replied: “I did not receive a response as to why the mayor cannot accommodate this interview request. I am surprised the mayor does not want to talk about the loss of a child in the community.”
We did not receive a response.
Jason Patchett said he too has never heard from the city.
Earlier this year, a judge sentenced Marmolejo to 2-6 years in prison. The Patchetts pushed to stiffen similar sentences and last spring, Republican Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo signed Rex’s Law, increasing prison time to a maximum of 10 years. The law also includes an enhancement for speeding in school zones.
Last week, the Patchetts filed a civil lawsuit against Marmolejo, the city, and the Clark County School District. The lawsuit claims the city and the district knew about the bump and failed to fix it.