Deadly Cape Coral Bridge hit-and-run suspect bonds out of jail

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The man accused of killing 21-year-old Austin Manke in a hit-and-run crash in Cape Coral was in court Monday morning to make his first appearance.

Clody Gonzalez Vera, 20, is accused of leaving the scene of a crash involving a death when he collided with Manke’s scooter Sunday morning, as they were driving over the Cape Coral Bridge.

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.

But, Vera’s lawyer asked everyone not to rush to judgement during his client’s first court hearing Monday.

“All indication at this point was that there was a traffic accident and somebody died,” attorney Rene Suarez said. “That doesn’t mean that somebody, my client, got up in the morning and said, ‘I’m going to run somebody down today.'”

It’s a drive Manke’s roommate and best friend, Liam Zynda, said they made frequently.

“He was just on his way home from work,” Zynda said.

Close friends of Manke spoke to us Sunday, the day of the crash and their friend’s death. They continue to cope with his sudden and tragic death.

“Austin Manke deserved better,” friend Sarah Rodriguez said. “He deserved so much better.”

In less than 24 hours, investigators were able to make an arrest.

“It hurt, but I sat there, and I was like, ‘The justice system, the universe, whoever, they had Manke’s back,” Rodriguez said.

“I think it was a mix of like relief, but, also, finally knowing a name also hit really deep,” Zynda said.

Vera was granted a $30,000 bond. He also must check in with his attorney at least once a week.

“Driving’s not hard. It really isn’t. All you have to do is look at the road, you know?” Rodriguez said.

Vera’s next court appearance is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. March 9.

“Pay attention to what you’re doing,” Zynda said. “You’re going to ruin both of your lives.”

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

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

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