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Prosecutor: Hit-and-run laws need to be tougher

By: Andy Cunningham Email
By: Andy Cunningham Email

Investigators say something needs to change. They claim Kentucky's laws don't do enough to punish people who hit and kill someone with a car, then drive off.

Since November 5, three people have died in separate hit-and-runs in Lexington. But only one driver has since come forward.

The latest deadly hit-and-run crash happened Saturday evening at Bryan Avenue and Emerson Drive.

On Monday morning, the Fayette County Coroner identified the man as Robert Shields, 56.

Just 24-hours earlier, another man, Lance Newby, was hit and killed on Winburn Drive.

"Whoever hit him took off. They just left the scene of an accident. It's terrible," said Angela Iwere, the victim's aunt.

On Saturday November 5, Casey Headgecock was killed on Loudon Avenue in front of the Hope Center. The driver, Lencola Groves, later turned herself in. She was not charged, pending toxicology results.

Prosecutors like Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson says, the law favors people who leave the scene, especially those who were under the influence at the time of the collision.

"It concerns me," Larson said. People think they can get a lesser penalty perhaps by leaving the scene, coming back sober and whether or not they were intoxicated we will never know."

Current Kentucky law says 'someone who leaves the scene of an accident causing injury or death' and later comes back, is charged with a Class D Felony and faces one to five years in Jail.

That's compared to someone who doesn't leave, but fails a sobriety test. That driver can be charged with Second Degree Manslaughter, a Class C felony or five to 10 years behind bars.

"The law shouldn't reward people for leaving the scene,' Larson said. If you were under the influence or not, the penalty should at least be the same."

Larson is now working with a five-member team called the Prosecution Watch Group to address crashes like these. He says he will continue to lobby for harsher punishments for people who leave these scenes, but ultimately he said, it is up to our lawmakers to get the job done.

In July 2008, leaving the scene of an accident causing injury or death was elevated from a misdemeanor to a felony. That was after a hit-and-run that killed UK student Connie Blount.


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