Muslim group demands arrest in hit-and-run death of Disney intern

A year after the hit-and-run death of a Walt Disney World intern, the American Muslim Youth Leadership Council in Kissimmee demanded an arrest and offered a $5,000 reward Friday for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the driver.

Imam Abufarah Helmi Elagha announced the reward Friday at a news conference at the council’s mosque on West U.S. Highway 192 — a day after the one-year anniversary of the death of Mahmoud Arabi.

“Above all we would like to ask the Florida Highway Patrol to move forward and expedite the process,” the imam wrote in an email to Central Florida media. “This is a crime. This is a MURDER! We are seriously concerned with the amount of evidence collected yet no arrest has taken place.”

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FHP expects to make an arrest in the near future, according to FHP Sgt. Kim Montes.

“We are writing the last chapter of Mahmoud Arabi’s life and want to make sure the most accurate, air-tight case possible goes into a courtroom,” Montes said Friday. “Some victims’ families truly don’t understand how the system works.”

The last pieces of DNA trace evidence from the hit-and-run crash were received last week from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement crime laboratory, she said. A homicide investigator will review it and “then we’ll move forward,” she said.

Less than a week after Arabi was struck crossing International Drive on March 18, 2013, FHP troopers found a green 1997 4-door vehicle matching the description of the hit-and-run vehicle. He died on March 20, 2013.

The 22-year-old intern from Australia, known as “Mike,” was hit at 12:25 a.m. in a crosswalk while he had the right of way at the intersection with Vineland Road. Witnesses described the hit-and-vehicle and told troopers it sped away northbound, according to FHP.

“The damage to this vehicle consistent with striking a pedestrian and the owner of this vehicle is our only person of interest,” said Montes. Investigators have been corresponding by e-mail with Arabi’s mother with the last information sent in late December to keep the family informed about the investigation, she said.

In Elagha’s announcement about Friday’s press conference, he also faulted Walt Disney World, saying, “Disney supported the family briefly at the time of the tragedy, yet it’s clear that Disney did not utilize all of its resources to assist in putting the person liable for the death of [Mahmoud Arabi] behind bars.”

“No private company has any influence or jurisdiction over a criminal investigation,” Montes said.

Disney did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

hcurtis@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5257