Officials identify man killed in hit-and-run while walking along I-75 in Peach County

The apparent hit-and-run death Saturday of a Byron-area handyman who was thought to have been walking along Interstate 75 when he was struck by a passing tractor-trailer rig remained a mystery Wednesday.

The body Mario Gonzales was discovered about 1 p.m. when the driver of a northbound 18-wheeler called the authorities to report seeing a man lying facedown in the grass maybe 20 feet off the freeway.

An autopsy determined that Gonzales, 42, had likely died sometime between 6 and 10 a.m.

Byron police Sgt. Melanie Bickford said Wednesday that part of an 18-wheeler’s headlight was found near Gonzales’ body, which was lying between mile markers 147 and 148 along the northbound lanes just south of the White Road overpass.

“It’s possible the driver of the truck didn’t even know that he hit Mr. Gonzales,” Bickford said.

It wasn’t known why Gonzales, who lived in Peach County and worked for a real estate agent fixing up houses, might have been walking or standing near the interstate, Bickford said.

The sergeant said a friend of Gonzales’ told investigators it was unusual for him to have been walking there.

Bickford said the authorities would like to talk to anyone who might have seen Gonzales on the highway Saturday morning. He was wearing a gray T-shirt, white shorts and black sandals.

Anyone with information was asked to call Bickford at 478-956-2493.

Joe Kovac Jr. covers crime and courts for The Telegraph with an eye for human-interest stories. A Warner Robins native, he joined the paper in 1991 after graduating from the University of Georgia.