At the age of 20, Eben Hammond achieved more than many adults reaching into their 70s, 80s, and 90s. But on the night of July 7, 2021, a hit-and-run driver cut that life short and destroyed at least two futures: Eben’s and their own. That driver couldn’t have known if the person hit was alive, critically injured or dead. That driver abandoned him out of understandable fear – and cowardice. That person surely knows by now that they have taken a life, and that they will have to live the rest of their lives with that memory.
Eben lived with Kay and Chris Cantwell in Oakhurst for much of his young years, and the Cantwells suggested that Matt and Heather Sconce become his godparents. Thus, a family bond formed and flourished. According to Matt, Eben spent many nights at their home, helping with projects, playing Dungeons & Dragons, helping them move, together building props for theatre sets.
Matt, a movie producer and co-owner of Yosemite Cinema in Oakhurst, says, “We were very close. We loved him dearly. I have recently finished my newest feature film about a very similar situation to this. I am dedicating the film to Eben.”
Eben earned a black belt in martial arts, was an accomplished musician, an actor for a number of years with Golden Chain Theatre and a recent graduate from Glacier High School in Oakhurst. Extensive Facebook posts attest to how much his community loved Eben, and how much he will be missed.
He was a prolific, dedicated performer at Golden Chain Theatre. Eben loved acting and music. He could sing and play instruments and was making amazing progress at the classical guitar. He performed in the lead role in several shows at the Golden Chain Theatre. Eben was Laurie in Little Women, Horton the Elephant in Seussical the Musical, Professor Plum in Clue, Alexander Hamilton in Another Openin’, Another Show, Tommy Djilas in The Music Man, Emmett in Legally Blonde, He was involved in the GCT Junior Players for years and also played Shermy in a Charlie Brown Christmas at Sierra Pines Church as well as many dinner theaters there. He also played the Prince in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella through Minarets High School’s drama program.
That shining light is extinguished, except in the memories he left behind.
The driver who struck Eben has neither turned himself or herself in, nor has the vehicle been located. Two separate descriptions have been offered. The friends who were with Eben when he was struck described the vehicle as a larger SUV, possibly a Jeep or Toyota 4Runner, dark in color, with round yellow headlights in the front and rectangular taillights.
The second description indicates that the vehicle of interest could resemble that of a smaller SUV, station wagon or crossover-type and could be white, silver or possibly two-toned.
Expect either vehicle to have extensive windshield and hood/front damage.
Someone must know something. Someone must have observed something off-kilter that night or the following day.
Did someone you know disappear unexpectedly for a day or more beginning July 8? Did someone show up with a different car than they usually drive? Did someone call in sick to a workplace on July 8 when they were expected? Any unusual behavior could be a clue.
Sconce believes that the driver lives in the mountain community or has friends in the area of Yosemite High School, since the vehicle was traveling westbound down Road 427 from that area when he struck Eben. Sconce has asked for anyone with cameras facing streets Road 427/Elliott Drive area or in the downtown Oakhurst to review the footage from 11:54 p.m. onward. Anyone in the Broadview Terrace area, including the roads Stephanie and Ely, may have captured valuable video or may have seen something unusual at that time of night.
The longer the driver goes unidentified, the more damage they do to their own life.
Matt Sconce emphasizes, “To the person who killed Eben Hammond at Rd 427 (School Road) and Elliot on the night of July 7th and drove away, you are about to kill the future of all the people you love.
“The entire California Highway Patrol is looking for you. This entire massive community of the mountain area is looking for you. I am looking for you . . . and I’m relentless . . . I will NEVER stop. The point is, you will be found. When you are, all the people who hid you or knew about you and kept it secret will be charged as accessories to your crime. The people you love will go to prison because of you, unless you act now.
“If you will not turn yourself in because it is the right thing to do, do it because you love your family. Protect them by acting quickly. Turn yourself in.”
Funeral services have been scheduled at Sierra Pines Church on August 7 at 3 p.m. to honor Eben’s memory. Sconce will lead the service.
Sconce further set up a GoFundMe to assist Eben’s family in covering funeral and related expenses as well as giving the mountain community a way to express their grief in a meaningful way. He set a goal of $10,000. To date, the fund (which is still open) has raised more than $12,300.
Eben’s GoFundMe page – please click here.
“Eben had the ability to become great at something just by deciding to start trying it,” Matt eulogizes. “So many people are grief stricken at his loss because he was a young man with his whole future ahead of him. He was a person who was true and good and dreamed of doing true and good things. He deserved the world and success. He deserved to see his dreams come true and find love and happiness. The fact that was ripped away from him is too much to bear.”
John Kilburn, Eben’s longtime guitar instructor, posted a video two days after Eben’s death, stating, “I’m posting this video today, as I just heard my dear friend Eben was tragically killed on his skateboard in a a hit-and-run accident two days ago. Eben is one of those beautiful rare souls that we are blessed to have in this world. He will be dearly missed…”
If you have any information that could help identify the driver who killed Eben, please contact Valley Crime Stoppers at 559-498-7867 or the Oakhurst CHP office at 559-658-6590. Please call even if you’re unsure if it’s connected, but it’s the right time and date. Don’t let the smallest possibility of bringing the driver to justice pass by.
Eben deserves it.