He sped past toll booth after toll booth on the interstate, driving away from Rockford, Illinois — the city where he had just killed his ex-girlfriend, and then taken her car, authorities said.
Elmer Aguilar, 30, made it as far as Racine, Wisconsin, on April 20, according to Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana. That’s where the stolen Pontiac G6 GT he was driving struck an excavator in a construction zone on Interstate 94 around 9:20 a.m. The Pontiac erupted in flames.
The crash caused Aguilar massive head trauma and killed him, Caruana said. Authorities aren’t yet sure if the crash was Aguilar’s intent or an accident.
“It’s our belief that he was panicked and didn’t have anywhere to go, nowhere to run, and was just driving,” Winnebago County Deputy Chief Mike Schultz said at a news conference Thursday.
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Hours before the fiery wreck, Aguilar had gone to the home of his ex-girlfriend, Destiny Tolodxi, and beaten her to death, the sheriff said. Neighbors reported seeing Aguilar parked near the 24-year-old victim’s home at 7:15 a.m.
“There are a lot of questions we have that we will never know (answers to) because the suspect is dead,” Schultz said. “It’s an act of domestic violence.”
Tolodxi’s sister found her dead in a bedroom of the home that afternoon, the sheriff said. The sister had become worried when Tolodxi failed to respond to messages throughout the day on April 20. Tolodxi had died of blunt force trauma to head, a skull fracture and broken nose.
Tolodxi had broken off the relationship two days before her death, as she was driving Aguilar home from a class he attended April 18, the sheriff said. The next day, Tolodxi spent time with another ex-boyfriend, and left that ex-boyfriend’s house around 5:30 a.m. the following morning.
Just hours after that, Tolodxi was dead. Authorities described Tolodxi’s relationship with Aguilar as on-again, off-again, and said he had been stalking her for several months based on texts and Facebook messages authorities reviewed. Still, there had been no evidence of domestic violence in the relationship, the sheriff’s office said, and no domestic violence was reported to police.
"She didn’t express any fears or concerns to family," Schultz added.
Aguilar was from El Salvador and was in the U.S. illegally, the sheriff’s office said. Two DUI arrests were his only criminal record in the area, Schultz said.
Authorities said the body found in Tolodxi’s wrecked car in Racine was burned past recognition, but the body had tattoos matching Aguilar’s, the sheriff said. Illinois toll cameras also caught pictures of Aguilar driving alone in the car, breezing past toll booths without paying at 7:42 a.m. and 8:56 a.m., according to Schultz.
Some crash witnesses said they watched one of the car’s tires come loose before the flaming wreck, FOX 6 reports.
"There's a lot of speculation going on at this time as to why he slammed into the excavator," Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said, according to FOX 6. "Was it a major malfunction of his vehicle or was it intentional?"
Schmaling added that investigators are still searching for answers.
Tolodxi had worked as a certified nursing assistant at a Rockford hospital since September 2015, WTVO reports.
“There are no words to describe the tragedy Destiny Tolodxi’s family is going through at this time,” the hospital said in a statement to WTVO. “Mercyhealth is deeply saddened by the news of her death.”