Mother Who Lost Son in Hit-and-Run Faces Longer Jail Term Than Driver


While trying to cross an intersection in Marietta, Georgia, in April of 2010, Raquel Nelson and her three children were hit by Jerry L. Guy, who would later confess to having consumed a “little” alcohol earlier in the day. Nelson’s 4-year-old son was struck by Guy’s vehicle and died from his injuries; Nelson and her younger daughter suffered minor injuries, while her older daughter was uninjured. Guy had been previously convicted of two-hit-and-runs on the same day, Feb. 17, 1997, the first of them on Austell Road, the same location as the accident involving Nelson and her children.

According to David Simpson, Guy’s attorney, his client was “being prescribed pain medication and … partially blind in his left eye,” says the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. He pleaded guilty to hit-and-run in the death of Nelson’s son and, after serving a 6-month sentence, was released on October 29, 2010; he is to serve the remainder of a 5-year sentence on probation.

Nelson, who lost her son in the hit-and-run, was convicted on July 12 of homicide by vehicle in the second degree, crossing a roadway elsewhere than at crosswalk and reckless conduct, said her attorney, David Savoy. She is to be sentenced at a hearing on July 26 and could serve up to 36 months.

Yes, Nelson could be jailed for 30 months longer than the driver of the vehicle that killed her child. Furthermore, she’s been charged with vehicular homicide in her own child’s death, even though she was a pedestrian when the accident occurred.

I had to read the facts of this case a few times to make sure I’d gotten them right — a mother was on foot with her children trying to cross a street, they get hit by a car that doesn’t stop, she is charged with her child’s death?

Jess Zimmerman on Grist asks:

What could Nelson have done instead? Basically either stayed inside or gotten some flying shoes. The court considered Nelson’s street crossing “reckless,” but her neighborhood has a Walkscore of 25, and the Marietta area ranks 11th in the nation for dangerousness to pedestrians. The street Nelson and her kids were crossing, Austell Road, is particularly dangerous — it’s a four-lane divided highway where safe crossings are sporadic. One of Guy’s previous hit-and-runs also happened on that road. After Nelson’s conviction, the president of a pedestrian advocacy organization pointed out that the city could have added a safe crossing for the cost of the trial. But that would mean prioritizing people over traffic.

Zimmerman also points out an unfortunate “trend” this year, “penalizing pedestrians for trying to walk in pedestrian-unfriendly areas.” Even in car-centric America, not everyone has a car and not everyone who has a car can afford gas to use it all the time; in such cases, walking is the only option.

Critics will say Nelson was clearly in the wrong not to be crossing the crosswalk. But doing so does not make it anymore “all right” for a driver to hit her and her children. Of course children need to learn to walk in the crosswalk and to look out for traffic — but if you’re driving a car and there’s a pedestrian in the road, you need to stop.

Nelson has already suffered enough, losing a child in a terrifying accident and then being judged — convicted — of contributing to his death. Jailing her for more than two years is highly likely to adversely affect her other two children, who’ve already had to contend with the death of the sibling and the legal charges against their mother. Why penalize this family further?

Take Action: Sign the Care2 petition against Nelson’s conviction!

Related Care2 Coverage

Drinking (Even a Little) + Driving = Not Safe At All

Spain Cuts Speed Limit to Save Gas, Economy, and Carbon

Can That Traffic Really Give You A Stroke?

Photo by editorb


Steven J.
Steven J.6 years ago

I would like to know what you morons are on, especially Cassandra t. The Guy admits he was drinking and on pain meds. It clearly states on all pain medication bottles that drinking alcohol while taking them impairs you and to not operate a vehicle if you have. I am sure he was well aware of this fact even without the warning since he had already been involved in 2 prior hit and runs. Plain and simple this guy obviously doesn't care if he kills ppl or not because he continues to do the same life endangering activities regardless of what happens. By the courts punishing the mother for vehicular homicide and not him then that only adds to his thinking that it is ok. Although I agree there are times when the driver could do nothing to avoid hitting some1 I do not believe this is one of those times. This guy clearly has a problem and so do the court systems in Georgia. The genius who came up with these charges for the mother should be lynched as far as I am concerned, along with the judge who passed down the sentence on the real criminal in this case. Its stories like this that make me ashamed to live on this giant rock and realize I am surrounded by imbeciles and morons. To the ppl who had comments that made sense, you probably know who you are, I am obviously not referring to you in this rant. I couldn't contain myself after reading some of the idiotic comments. I apologize to the few of you there are here that have a little sense.

Deborah M.
Deborah M6 years ago

Of course it's not always the driver's fault, but this guy had two priors!! In addition, the main problem is that the mom is being charged and jailed. That's absurd. She has two other children to care for. It's a law that pedestrians have the right of way. You can recieve a ticket for jaywalking, not for vehicular manslaughter. duh

cassandra toney
cassandra toney6 years ago

Let's face it...there is not just bad drivers out there.Pedestrians do not always obey the rules as they should. Good common sense is a good approach.Kids that are old enough to know better walk in front of you of your car,knowing that the light was green..and i don't mean it changed when they were half way through the walking lane.Kids ride their bikes in front of you,when they don't have the right of way...they rides bikes late at night with no lights or helmets or reflecters along the highway,knowing that other's have been killed along the same route..i could go on and on..BUT if you accidentally hit them,guess who is the first to scream?
You have to have eyes all over to avoid a unfortunate accident..because of the some lack of respect of some people..who like to be defiant and act as if they own the road and the sidewalks.

Carol W.
Carol W6 years ago

outrageous - is there any justice these days.

SeattleAnn S.
Ann S6 years ago

I cannot arbitrarily agree with the tone of this article. I do not agree that every hit and run is the fault of the driver, but probably in most cases it is. I am influenced by a recent encounter I witnessed involving a mother (or caretaker) with her two children on campus waiting at a crosswalk. The speed limit is low on campuses, so we had plenty of time of observe the following as we had to basically creep up towards our green light. It appeared the party (mother and two children) had just left the public pool nearby and were waiting at the crosswalk for their turn across four lanes of traffic with no shoulder between the sidewalk on which they were waiting and the road. The mother was preoccupied with the smaller child and completely ignored the older one jumping up and down right at the edge of the road. I kept trying to stare her down, but she was completely oblivious. Finally, as we were passing at 3 mph (in a 25 mph zone, mind you), I gestured to the jumping child and shook my head at her. Come on, it was only two kids for crying out loud. If she can't watch two kids at such a narrow crosswalk, then I would say she is an unfit mother.

Marjaana V.
marjaana v6 years ago

some people down there just don't like women... had it been a man crossing the street with his kids, it would have been classified as an unfortunate accident.

is not losing a child enough punishment for anyone?

obviously people suggesting she needs punishment have no clue how that feels.

Lika S.
Lika P6 years ago

arresting parents for crossing the street with their children is absurd, when hit and run drivers who drink alcohol are getting slaps on the hand.

Danielle K.
Danielle K6 years ago

I think that if we want to talk about equality we need to first practise it - by saying that WHATEVER the racial background of this poor woman, persecuting her is clearly wrong in this case...

Marjorie L.
Marjorie L6 years ago

I don't know the racial backgrounds of any of the individuals involved in this tragic situation, but it is a safe bet that Nelson is not a person of privilege.

A wealthy white person in this situation would already have a competent attorney and be suing the county for dearth of safe crossing areas and inadequate pedestrian safety. The county would be paying out for "wrongful death" and the parent would be seen as a "victim" not a "perpetrator".

Nelson is probably African American or immigrant, and not wealthy. This is the classic double standard of our justice system. This poor woman has suffered the worst punishment a parent can endure. It serves no justice to throw her in jail. It is not in the interest of her family, or society, or to protect the public interest. It is vindictive and mean minded. I don't know who in Cobb County made the decision to prosecute this mother, but I think it is an extremely poor use of public resources. Let Nelson pick up the shattered pieces of her life and try to rebuild. Jail is just insult to injury and a waste of tax payer money.

Jeff Markus
Jeff Markus6 years ago

This whole situation is a conundrum on an enigma on a farce.
The 2 criminal cases should not be grouped together for comparison.
Vehicular homicide especially by an impaired person is a heinous crime and the 6 months is a woefully inadequate judgement.
Crossing your 3 children in an unsafe place on a 4lane road is child endangerment and requires strong education and rehabilitation.
I often read news reports of children being killed or injured while they are being led across a street from between parked cars in the middle of a city block. The person leading the child is as complicit in the incident as much as the driver and should be charged, but many factors need to be weighed in the sentencing of these severely mentally incompetant people.
If we wish to have a safe and healthy place to live than the rules and laws must be taught, understood and ENFORCED in order for the society to protect our citizens and our safety.
Drivers must be cognizant of their responsibility of control and legal respect and pedestrians and bicyclists need to be aware of their responsibilities and legal rights on these same roadways.
Our current method of allowing some groups to get away with murder because another is being allowed to ignore safe social practises is wrong at so many levels a thesis on the subject would rival the text left by the rightwingnut in Norway.
People we must start teaching and acting responsibly and holding others to task when they do not. So long as fools get away