LINCOLN — She lost her 2-year-old son in 2011 after a semi hit their car on Interstate 80.
Now a Bellevue woman fears she is about to lose a chance to hold the truck driver accountable.
Jennifer Brock said Tuesday that she's been told by Lancaster County prosecutors that they won't file a felony charge of motor vehicle homicide in her son's death. She has now set her sights on Monday, when the deadline expires to file misdemeanor charges.
“All we want is a tiny bit of justice,” Brock said.
Lancaster County Attorney Joe Kelly called it unusual for an investigation into a fatal accident to take nearly 1½ years. But he also said Tuesday that his office had not ruled out potential charges.
“We haven't made a final decision,” Kelly said. “We are going to soon.”
The 53-year-old man behind the wheel of the semitrailer truck that day was on probation for second-degree murder in Delaware, a prison official confirmed. But the official said Delaware law prevents him from releasing probation terms or details about the murder conviction.
Kelly said the driver, Leamond Pierce of New Castle, Del., had a valid commercial driver's license at the time of the crash.
The collision that took the life of Aidan Curry occurred shortly before 5 p.m. on Dec. 3, 2011, as he and his family were on their way from Lincoln to their home in Bellevue.
Robert Curry, the boy's father and Brock's husband, was driving a 2006 Toyota Camry on Interstate 80 east of the Waverly interchange. His wife and their 1-year-old daughter also were in the car.
Curry kept his speed down because he had just merged onto the highway and it had been snowing. He was in the right lane when the Toyota was struck from behind by the semi, according to an accident report by the Nebraska State Patrol.
The impact of the collision pushed the left rear of the Toyota forward and crushed Aidan, who was in a child-restraining seat. He was declared dead at a Lincoln hospital.
Curry suffered a broken shoulder blade. The mother and daughter were treated for minor injuries and released.
Neither the semi's driver nor his passenger was injured.
The initial report does not estimate the speed of the two vehicles. A subsequent accident reconstruction report, which Brock said she obtained from the State Patrol, said the Toyota was moving at approximately 35 mph and the semi was going about 60 mph at the time of impact. Seconds before the crash, however, the accident reconstruction expert said, the semi was traveling at 69 mph.
Subsequent information obtained from data chips in both vehicles confirmed the speed estimates, Brock said.
The speed limit at the location of the crash wasn't clear at the time, Brock said, but it was either 55 mph or 65 mph. It is now marked 55 mph.
Either way, the semi was going too fast, especially when the slick roadway was taken into account, Brock said.
The trooper who investigated the crash noted no evidence of drug or alcohol use by either driver.
The driver of the semi was not arrested or ticketed.
Attempts to reach Pierce for comment were unsuccessful.
At the time of the crash, he was working for United Distribution, a Wilmington, Del., trucking company. Pierce no longer works for the company, said Thomas Locher, an Omaha attorney who represents the company.
“It was a very tragic accident, but I will tell you our investigation suggests that he was not at fault,” Locher said.
The trucking company has cooperated with the State Patrol investigation, Locher said. He added that it was his understanding that a decision had been made not to file criminal charges in the case.
Throughout the investigation, Brock said she and her husband have been in regular contact with prosecutors.
Last July, the couple were told the evidence did not support a felony charge of motor vehicle homicide.
Prosecutors said they had an ethical obligation not to file charges unless they were confident the charges could be proved. They could not prove her son would have survived the crash had the semi been moving slower, Brock said she was told.
“We argued we should take that to a jury and let them decide,” Brock said.
Kelly said all potential charges remain on the table. New information developed by reconstruction experts will be considered as a final decision is reached.
While they are quickly approaching a deadline for misdemeanor charges, the statute of limitations for felony motor vehicle homicide is three years, Kelly said.
In the months since Aidan died, his parents have created a charity that provides stuffed animals for first responders to give to children in auto accidents. They also are working to educate parents on proper child-restraint use while also providing upgraded seats to low-income families.
Now, they are waiting for a resolution to the investigation.
“The easy thing would be to let this go,” Brock said. “But as parents and citizens of this state, we're not going to do that.”
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