The family of a North Carolina woman killed late Thursday in a crash with an alleged drunken driver is incensed after the driver – who has a long list of driving infractions – received a $75,000 bond Friday afternoon.
Lacee Sullivan, of Monroe, would have been 24 on Monday. She was killed when a car driven by Jeannine Valdes crashed into the car in which she was riding on Interstate 77 northbound near Rock Hill, prosecutors said in court Friday. Both vehicles left the highway and hurtled down an embankment.
Valdes, 35, is charged with DUI resulting in death. She has a long list of criminal and driving infractions that date back to 2001, said 16th Circuit Deputy Solicitor Willy Thompson – including drug convictions and five driving infractions in the past three years.
Thompson said Valdes was swerving in and out of I-77 traffic at high speed – passing vehicles both on the left and the right.
Sullivan was a “totally innocent victim,” he said.
Sullivan’s family was irate after the bond hearing, at which Valdes appeared in a wheelchair.
“It’s not right,” said Landee Staton, Sullivan’s sister. “She should be in (jail) for life. I am just furious.”
Sullivan had just left a Rock Hill restaurant with a friend and was heading back to North Carolina when the collision happened.
Deitra Johnson held a picture of her daughter throughout the bond hearing, but was too emotional to speak. Her friend, Brenda Mills read a letter from Johnson, in which she said that the family forgives Valdes, but she had no business driving while drunk.
“Instead of planning for a birthday party, I am planning for a funeral,” Johnson wrote in the letter. “My daughter is dead because one person decided to get drunk.
“Lacee would want me to forgive you.”
Sullivan had to be cut from the car before she was taken by helicopter to a Charlotte hospital, where she died. Valdes was taken by ambulance to Piedmont Medical Center. She was given a blood test, the results of which are pending, then arrested and taken to jail.
Thompson said in court he did not know the results of the blood test, but he said Valdes was combative with police while being tested and arrested.
In addition to the driving infractions, Valdes has two arrests for narcotics and marijuana possession charges in 2004 and 2009, according to the State Law Enforcement Division.
The charge against Valdes does not allege any intent to kill Sullivan. Valdes’ lawyer, Jim Morton, said in court that it took courage for Sullivan’s family to forgive Valdes, calling Sullivan’s death “a terrible tragedy.”
Valdes is a mother of two children, is married and has lived in the Rock Hill area her whole life, Morton said. She is not a flight risk or a danger to others, he said.
York County Magistrate Judge Dan Malphrus set Valdes’ bond at $75,000, but also ordered her to surrender her driver’s license until the case is resolved.
The crash remains under investigation by the Highway Patrol. This is the third fatal crash in York County since Sunday.