Friends remember hit-and-run victim as 'a beautiful young man'

clambert@thetribunenews.comNovember 20, 2012 

Friends of Christopher Tietjen, who was struck and killed by a vehicle about a week ago in Nipomo, remembered the 24-year-old as a happy, chatty young man who enjoyed playing video games.

“You could never stop him from talking,” Oceano resident Connie Toribio recalled Tuesday. She got to know Tietjen through her grandson, who attended special education classes with Tietjen in Lucia Mar district schools in South County. Her son is about the same age as Tietjen.

“He was a beautiful young man, I can tell you that,” she added.

Authorities said Tuesday that Tietjen died of multiple blunt-force trauma injuries. The CHP released the cause of death after San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s coroners conducted an autopsy Nov. 15.

Memorial services are still pending. Efforts to reach Tietjen’s mother have been unsuccessful.

The Nipomo woman arrested and charged in connection with Tietjen’s death, Marie Coyner, is scheduled to appear in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Nov. 29 for an arraignment.

She had been booked into San Luis Obispo County Jail but posted bail Nov. 17, sheriff’s spokesman Tony Cipolla said.

Coyner was driving a Toyota Prius south on Thompson Road near Sheehy Road, in Nipomo about 9 p.m. Nov. 12, according to a statement filed in court by CHP. Tietjen was walking on the right shoulder of the road in the dark.

Coyner, the report said, was texting on her cellphone and accidentally veered off the road and struck Tietjen. After the impact, she drove off and did not report the accident.

Tietjen’s body wasn’t found until 11 a.m. the next morning, partially hidden in grass and brush off the road. Cipolla said coroner’s investigators have found it difficult to determine the exact time that Tietjen died.

Toribio said she last saw Tietjen about three months ago. He often came to her house to play video games with her grandson, who lives with her.

Tietjen didn’t have a car, and made his way from his Nipomo home to Oceano or other parts of the county on foot or by bike. He was unconcerned about walking in the dark, and wore reflectors on his shirt and carried a flashlight so people could see him, Toribio said.

She said Tietjen attended Grover Heights Elementary, Judkins Middle School and Arroyo Grande High. Lucia Mar district officials could not be immediately reached to verify his attendance record.

Tietjen had a prior criminal record in San Luis Obispo County. He had been arrested twice since 2009 for allegedly annoying children under 18 years of age. The cases were still ongoing at the time of his death.

Toribio and her daughter, Kat Austin, both said that Teitjen was a special needs child who didn’t know he was doing anything wrong. They did not know the exact nature of his disability.

“All he wanted to do was play with them,” said Austin, who now lives in Bakersfield. “He didn’t understand that he was supposed to stay away from them.”

Austin met Tietjen when her brother-in-law dated his mother and then learned that her son attended classes with him. She considered him a nephew and expressed anger over the way he died.

“He wasn’t a piece of garbage to be left on the side of the road,” Austin said. “He was a human being.”

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