Canyon County

Tributes pour in for Australian ‘tech genius’ killed by car in Nampa

Leslie Nasser and one of his daughters.
Leslie Nasser and one of his daughters.

The eldest daughter of Leslie Nassar won her first match Saturday morning at a co-ed wrestling tournament in Middleton.

The student from Nampa’s South Middle School looked into the stands to share the moment with her father, Leslie Nassar, but she couldn’t find him.

“It’s the most heartbreaking moment I have ever seen,” said Dan Neef, the girl’s wrestling coach.

The reason Nassar, 43, wasn’t there to see Zoe Nassar was because he was struck earlier Saturday morning by a hit-and-run driver. He had walked the girl to meet the tournament bus and was walking home with his younger daughters, ages 8 and 3, when he was hit by a car.

Nassar — co-owner of Wrangling Cats, a Sydney, Australia, digital production studio — later died at a local hospital.

It is an incredibly surreal situation that has me trying to make sense of it all.

Dan Neef, South Middle School teacher

Nampa police arrested Tristian D. Myers, 20, after authorities said he admitted hitting Nassar and his two daughters. The girls were treated at a local hospital and released.

Myers was identified after police received a phone call reporting the hit-and run. The call was traced to Myers.

He is charged with three felony counts of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury or death. He was arraigned Monday in Canyon County Magistrate Court and was released after posting $50,000 bond.

A preliminary hearing is set for Nov. 3.

Remembering the victim, Marianne Nassar said her older brother had a great mind.

“I remember him spending hours on end on his Commodore 64 back when he was just a teenager and painting little figurines with such precise skill,” said Marianne Nassar, who lives in Australia. “I could never understand how he did it.”

As far back as I can remember, he loved computing and everything that goes with it.

Marianne Nassar, victim’s sister

Nassar moved to Idaho earlier this year, friend Dan Nolan told the Sydney Morning Herald. He was living in Nampa with his wife, the couple’s three daughters and his in-laws.

“The man was a prodigious inventor and someone who could not just see what technology could do, but was constantly trying to push it to the edges of the realms of the possible,” Nolan told the newspaper.

Andrea Horton, Nassar’s business partner in Wrangling Cats, said Nassar was a “savage satirist, driven by a desire to see the powerful held to account and for justice to prevail.” Nassar wanted to use digital innovation to make the world a better place, she said in a statement provided to the Statesman.

“In private, he was a gentle, compassionate soul with a fierce love for his family and loyalty to his friends, while at work he was a passionate and creative genius, dedicated to using new technologies in weird and wonderful new ways that seemed impossible until Leslie made them a reality with an understated aplomb,” Horton said.

Horton established a GoFundMe account to benefit Nassar’s family. By Tuesday afternoon it had raised nearly $26,000.

Nassar first gained notoriety in his native country in 2009, when he admitted being behind the “Fake Stephen Conroy” Twitter account, which lampooned the former Australian senator and communications minister, the Morning Herald said.

Nassar later helped develop a live Twitter feed used on an Australian Broadcasting Corp. television show that focuses primarily on politics and other important national issues. The system displays relevant tweets on the screen while giving the show’s producers control over that content.

“Leslie Nassar boasted that he ‘ruined television by making it great’ and it is absolutely true,” Peter McEvoy, a producer on the show, told The Guardian newspaper. “Some people didn’t like the tweets on screen but they were wrong — it brought new younger viewers to a national discussion on politics and engaged people in a truly national conversation.”

Nassar was also known for creating memes for Crikey, a publication that “reveals how the powerful operate behind the scenes” in Australia. On Monday, Crikey said Nassar “spoke truth to power in a way that we all wish we could.”

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @IDS_Sowell

Suspect previously made headlines for another crash

Myers received nationwide attention after a Meridian wreck in November 2014. He told police that he crashed a 1988 Ford Bronco after a 16-year-old boy in the passenger seat held a cigarette lighter to his armpit, burning the hair.

The exact timing of the armpit incident in relation to the crash was unclear in later, conflicting testimony from others during trial.

Myers was charged with reckless driving and was acquitted after a jury trial. His passenger was convicted of battery and served two days in jail.