Deadly hit, run crash pursuit follows Connecticut suspect to Marco Island

Families speak out after suspect's arrest in Marco Island

Tomas Rodriguez
Naples Daily News
Giovani Vega-Benis and Yuliana Arias-Lozano, both 25, died after a Dec. 3 fatal hit-and-run crash in Stamford, Connecticut. Four weeks later, Collier County deputies arrested the man Connecticut police believe was driving the car involved in the crash.

More than 1,300 miles separated a man accused of killing two pedestrians and justice, the family members of one of the dead men say.

Michael Matthew Talbot, 24, was playing bingo at a Marco Island church on Jan. 5 when authorities finally caught up to him. He faces manslaughter and DUI charges in a Dec. 3 drunken driving crash in Connecticut.

"All that's left is calling for justice," Andres Arias Forero, cousin to Yuliana Arias-Lozano, one of the victims, said in Spanish. "Transparent justice."

Ruth Sanchez, cousin to the other victim, Giovani Vega-Benis, echoed Arias Forero.

"Yuliana was laid to rest on Christmas Eve and my cousin was put to rest Dec. 12," Sanchez said in Spanish. "Christmas wasn't the same."

Collier County Sheriff's Office said that Talbot is one of six men and women that headed to Collier County, avoiding police after they stood accused of homicide or manslaughter in the death of another in the past five years. While one of the six has been cleared, the other five remain in the judicial system.

Collier County officials said a getaway wasn’t in the cards for Michael Matthew Talbot, 24, who they arrested Jan. 5 while playing bingo with family members.

Prior coverage:Connecticut man, 24, arrested in Marco Island on warrants for vehicular manslaughter

On the calendar:Date set to increase bond for Naples attorney accused in fatal crash

According to the arrest warrant, shared by a family liaison, shortly after 2 a.m. Dec. 3, 2022, Stamford, Connecticut, Police said Talbot fled in his car fled after he struck the two pedestrians, later identified as Giovani Vega-Benis and Arias-Lozano, both 25.

Vega-Benis was born in the U.S., while Arias-Lozano had been stateside for eight months. They had both just finished their shifts at Cantina Mexicana, a nearby Mexican restaurant.

Neither of them owned a car. Vega-Benis was walking Arias-Lozano to her apartment.

Investigation into Michael Talbot's crash

After Talbot struck both, he fled on foot, police said.

University of Connecticut Police alerted Samford Police that a man matching Talbot's description was running through the parking lot, jumping a fence.

Officers saw Talbot hiding between a fence and a garage in a nearby backyard. Officers arrested Talbot, who they said appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, his hands covered in dry blood. As officers arrested him, Talbot began to cry.

"Please tell me I didn't kill anyone tonight," he told officers, according to the report.

Giovani Vega-Benis and Yuliana Arias-Lozano, both 25, died after a Dec. 3 fatal hit-and-run crash in Stamford, Connecticut. The believed driver, Michael Talbot, 24, was arrested Jan. 5 while playing bingo in Marco Island.

When Talbot was taken in an ambulance to Stamford Hospital. When officers spoke with Talbot at the hospital, they noted his speech was "thick, slow, slurred and drawn out," according to the affidavit.

"He was slow answering questions, appeared very drowsy, relaxed, had red bloodshot droopy eyes and a red face," the report reads.

Talbot said that between Dec. 2 and the following day he drank alcohol, smoked marijuana and drove to several places, where he drank with friends.

"I could have swore I hit something or someone like tonight," he said, according to the report. He later told officers he is a recovering drug addict.

Talbot asked where his car was, saying he left it in the road.

"I'm an addict myself so I shouldn't be drinking, and this is what happens when I drink," he said. "I take it to the next level more than the average Joe. I think I can get behind the wheel, you know I mean, and I'm invincible."

Officers concluded Talbot was under the influence of alcohol and cannabis.

As they further examined Talbot's car, they noticed damage to the driver's side bumper had heavy damage, its windshield shattered with "a hole in it consistent with a pedestrian being struck."

Officers noticed "white fuzz" on the shattered windshield. They also noticed bodily fluids and flesh inside the front fender under the hood and flesh inside the driver's side front headlight.

Investigators determined Talbot never applied the brakes after he struck Vega-Benis and Arias-Lozano. Both died at Stamford Hospital shortly before 3:45 a.m. Dec. 3.

Investigation reveals speed data

Stamford police determined that just before Talbot struck Vega-Benis and Arias-Lozano he was traveling between 84 and 86 mph, according to data collected from his car. The speed limit in the area is 25 mph, according to the report.

A blood analysis pulled from the airbag revealed Talbot was the driver, the report indicates.

Families meet at arraignment, react to Talbot's arrest

At that hearing, Talbot's bond rose to $1,750,000 from the initial $1 million, according to records from the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch. Talbot remains in custody, the records indicate.

Ruth Sanchez, Vega-Benis' cousin, and Arias Forero, Arias-Lozano's cousin, met when they attended Talbot's Jan. 17 arraignment, where Talbot's bond.

"Christmas and New Year's were very sad ... Very different," Sanchez said in Spanish, adding that she was relieved to hear Jan. 17 he was in custody.

Sanchez said the incident's description was "very graphic and painful."

Arias Forero flew in from Colombia to attend the hearing. Arias-Lozano had migrated to the U.S. eight months prior in hopes of assuring a bright future for her family, he said.

"It's been an incredible loss to the family," Arias Forero said in Spanish. "In a way, we can say this has shaped our lives."

Arias Forero, who flew in from overseas the night prior to the hearing, said all that's left for the family is praying for strength and wisdom.

Arias Forero said they've all bonded as if they were one family. Arias Forero said Arias-Lozano's dream was to learn about a different culture when she arrived stateside. They laid her to rest in Colombia.

"Not only last year has impacted us," Arias Forero said. "This will last for a lifetime because we the holiday season will forever bring deep sorrow."

Arias Forero also expressed concern after Talbot crossed state lines following the crash.

What's Talbot's connection to Southwest Florida?

Talbot's grandparents, Mary and William Dineno, moved to Marco Island after retirement and now live in the 7700 block of Hernando Court.

Deputies arrested Talbot while playing bingo with family members at San Marco Catholic Church, 851 San Marco Road.

Mary Dineno and Talbot's mother, Elizabeth Dineno didn't respond to requests for comment before publication.

Where does Talbot's case stand?

Stamford police extradited Talbot on Jan. 13 from the Collier County Jail.

He remains in custody on seven charges — two second-degree manslaughter counts; two second-degree vehicular manslaughter counts; fleeing the scene of a fatal crash; driving under the influence; and reckless driving.

Booth said Talbot is being held at Bridgeport Correctional Hearing until his next hearing.

He's next due in court March 15.

Tomas Rodriguez is a Breaking/Live News Reporter for the Naples Daily News and The News-Press. You can reach Tomas at TRodriguez@gannett.com or 772-333-5501. Connect with him on Twitter @TomasFRoBeltran, Instagram @tomasfrobeltran and Facebook @tomasrodrigueznews.