March 11, 2014

Driver in deadly crash facing 6th DUI charge

Lonnie Gross III’s vehicle allegedly veered left into the path of the car driven by Latoya Jenkins Friday night as she and her 3-year-old son were on their way to pick up a pizza to celebrate his being listed in a school newsletter at Lewis Greenview Elementary School.

A 3-year-old injured in a crash Friday with a suspected DUI repeat offender has died.

Josiah Caden Jenkins of Columbia died shortly after 8 a.m. Tuesday at Palmetto Health Richland, according to Richland County Coroner Gary Watts.

Josiah was riding in a car driven by his mother, Latoya Jenkins. The two were out Friday evening to pick up a pizza to celebrate Josiah being listed in a school newsletter at Lewis Greenview Elementary School, said Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins, who is the boy’s great uncle.

Josiah and his mother were on North Springs Road around 10 p.m., when the suspect’s vehicle allegedly veered left into Jenkins’ path, said Sgt. Bob Beres of the S.C. Highway Patrol.

“I would like to thank everyone who has offered their support and prayers for Josiah and our family during the last four days and ask that you keep our family in your prayers today and in the days to come as we grieve the loss of such a wonderful boy who was taken from this world at such a young age,” Chief Jenkins said in a news release.

Lonnie Gross III, 44, was being held Monday without bond in the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, according to jail records. Following Josiah’s death, charges against Gross were upgraded to felony DUI resulting in death.

He is charged with felony driving under the influence of alcohol, driving under suspension and a seat belt violation in connection with the Friday night crash in Northeast Richland.

Josiah Jenkins suffered severe head injuries, Aubrey Jenkins said.

Latoya Jenkins, the boy’s mother, was “pretty banged up,” the chief said. She was treated and released from the hospital.

Gross has a history of DUI convictions, according to a State Law Enforcement Division background check. The convictions include one in Lexington in 1993, one in Kershaw County in 1999, one in Elgin in 2000 and another in Kershaw County in 2007, according to SLED records.

Gross was out on bond awaiting trial in a November 2013 DUI arrest at the time of Friday’s accident, SLED records show.

Laura Hudson, executive director of the S.C. Criminal Victims Council, said this week that suspending driver’s licenses is not preventing DUIs and tragic crashes. “It’s absurd,” she said.

The proposed “Emma’s Law,” now in the S.C. House Judiciary Committee, would put interlock systems on the vehicles of those convicted of driving under the influence. The measure is named for a first-grade Lexington County girl killed in 2012 on New Year’s Day by a drunk driver.

Aubrey Jenkins said he appeared at Gross’s Saturday morning bond hearing and urged the presiding judge not to let him out.

“We don’t want this man to get out of jail on bond – and then this could happen to somebody else,” he said.

Leevy’s Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.

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