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WKYT Investigates | Mother of hit-and-run victim says she’s still seeking justice

Mother of woman killed in 2018 hit-and-run in Lexington says she’s still waiting for justice
Published: May. 13, 2022 at 6:36 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A gap in the law— that’s what Fayette County’s commonwealth’s attorney told us after a Lexington mother seeking justice for her daughter reached out to us.

Nina Okawachi died after being hit by a car along Leestown Road in 2018. Nobody was charged in her death. A driver who served time for leaving the scene of the accident was ordered to pay the family restitution, but the victim’s mother said she hasn’t received a dime.

“It’s bad enough to lose somebody that you love in your family,” said Elizabeth Okawachi, Nina’s mother.

Okawachi was not doing anything worse than walking home from work. Elliott Moton, the man charged in connection with Okawachi’s death, originally left the scene and turned himself in the next day.

He pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a deadly crash. At his sentencing, he told the judge he was impaired that night, but said it wasn’t why he left the crash. He was sentenced to two years and six months in prison and ordered to pay $3,768 restitution to the Okawachi family.

Moton was released early on good behavior, but Okawachi says no money came in.

“I started calling around and the parole officer said ‘Moton was only under parole for three months,’” Okawachi said.

That’s because he was released through a program called Mandatory Reentry Supervision. MRS was created as part of a prison reform bill passed by the legislature in 2011. It allows inmates who qualify to be released early into supervision by parole officers. Part of that criteria includes, being convicted of a nonviolent crime. Moton was convicted of failing to render aid and leaving the scene of a deadly accident.

“It did not fall under the victim’s advocacy part of the law because my daughter was not a victim. She was not considered to be a victim of a criminal offense,” Okawachi said.

Fayette County Commonwealth’s Attorney Lou Anna Red Corn told us inmates who are released on probation or regular parole have to pay any restitution they owe before they are released. Inmates, like Moton released though MRS are not required to pay.

Red Corn calls it “a gap in the law that leaves the court order unfulfilled.” She went on to say, “I completely understand Ms. Okawachi’s frustration.”

“That doesn’t get me anywhere does it? I’m glad that I have every reason to be frustrated. I’m glad someone could kill my daughter with a car and have it considered a nonviolent crime and have it considered a class D felony. I’m glad he was able to go on with his life. What recourse does that leave me?” Okawachi said.

Okawachi said she doesn’t know what her next steps are. She said she hasn’t been able to get a lawyer’s help.

The commonwealth’s attorney told us under MRS conditions, released inmates are required to make reasonable efforts toward paying restitution, but there is no requirement.

We reached out to the Department of Corrections for more information about the MRS program. We have not heard back yet.

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