This is part two of an interview I had with a young man who was serving a four and a half month sentence at the Shelby County Penal Farm for vehicular homicide. He was driving when the accident occurred and the victim, Kelli, was a passenger inside his car. His girlfriend, Marcia, who was also the mother of his child, was critically injured.
The purpose of running this interview is simple, but profound: If you drink, then decided to drive, someone could die.
We left off last week when I asked him this question: What was that moment like when the police said to you, “Kelli’s dead?” He became very teary-eyed here and took a long time to answer. He said, “I just immediately started crying.”
When it hit him
This is an important question. Were you emotional because you thought, “Oh my God, I’m in so much trouble.” or “Oh my God, Kelli’s dead.”? You had to have felt both ends of that. What order was that in?
Well, initially, I mean, you know, my heart just fell, it just dropped. I caused an accident that, you know, someone died. One of my best friends. A thousand thoughts was running through my mind. I was immediately sober. Right after the wreck, really, I was sober. But when they told me that Kelli was dead, it was just a crazy feeling. It was shock and disbelief. It just took everything out of me. Then it was, if Kelli’s dead, how is Marcia? They didn’t tell me anything because they didn’t know. Nobody knew. Then, ultimately, when you take everything in consideration, at least subconsciously I thought, “Wow, I’m in a lot of trouble. I’m going to jail. I don’t know when I’ll be out.” All of this is running through your mind all at once. But the focus was on Kelli. Trying to comprehend that she was actually dead was just hard to take in. At first my focus was on Marcia because I thought Kelli was just knocked out. To hear Kelli was dead was just a total shock. It took some time for this to register in my mind that it was actually true.
How long had you known Kelli?
For about seven years. I met Kelli through Marcia. We hung out together all through high school.
When the police told you Kelli had died, were they angry?
No, the cop was all right. He was pretty nice about it because I was so emotional. He did his paperwork, which took a long time, and then I was on my way.
What happened to you when they took you to 201 (Shelby County Jail)?
That was a long process, like five or six hours. Then once I got into the, I guess, Community Room with the telephones I just got right on the phone and called Marcia’s mom, but she didn’t really know anything at that point.
What did she say when she found out it was you calling? What did you say to her? That had to have been an incredible phone call.
I just said, “It’s me.” You know, I don’t really remember. I just asked her how Marcia was. She wasn’t, you know, cussing me out, which you would expect from most parents. She just told me that Marcia was stable, that they were just trying to get through hour by hour. My mind was just going crazy.
Were you placed in a holding cell until you posted your bail? Were you actually behind bars?
Yeah. Once you get processed they take you down to the lower level, which is as close to hell as it comes. You’re locked down in a 5×8 cell.
Did they tell you what you were being charged with at that time?
At the time it was a simple DUI. I had an uncle who made some calls to a bond company so I knew I was going to get out sometime that night. I didn’t know when. So I had to wait in that holding cell in the lower level.
Were you by yourself?
No, I had a cellmate but he was sleeping. By the time I got there it was probably one in the morning. So I just kind of sat there and waited.
Sleep was impossible wasn’t it?
Yeah. I couldn’t sleep. Just had a million thoughts running through my head. You’re in a small cell and you know you’re going to get out sometime but you don’t know when so you’re just waiting every minute to get out. Me, I just wanted to get out and run down to the Med, and then just figure out what to do, you know, how to deal with what just happened.
Any thoughts like, “God, this is what it’s going to be like? This is how I’m going to be living?”
At the time it was all so overwhelming. I was just thinking about what I had done. I had ended a life. So those thoughts were there and I was so worried about Marcia.
How did you get out of jail?
They told me my bond had been paid and they process you out. No one was there waiting and I had to call a cab and had them take me to the house. It was four in the morning at that time and I knew what the Med’s visiting hours were and I didn’t know what else to do.
You had to go to the Med, knowing Marcia’s and Kelli’s family would be there, knowing that they knew you’d been drinking. You knew all this. How hard was it to walk in that hospital the first time, knowing you would have to face all of them before you could see Marcia?
It was extremely hard. Not to mention when I first walked in, right when I walked in, Kelli’s mother and step-father and Marcia’s mom was right there. So I walked right into that. No one would look at me. Kelli’s mom was obviously crying. So, from there I walked down the hall, a very long walk, all eyes on me. At that point, you know, I knew what I was walking into. I just kind of accepted everything. Again, my main focus was on Marcia.
Did the thought of not going that day ever enter your mind?
No. Never a doubt in my mind.
Written by Rick Jacobs, a regular columnist for the Express. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.