CHARLOTTE, NC (The Charlotte Observer) - This weekend, two years after he ran a red light and killed a woman with his car while she was crossing a street in South End, 27-year-old Jeffery LaForce was charged with driving while impaired.
LaForce was arrested at 3:30 p.m. Saturday after he was pulled over on West W.T. Harris Boulevard in north Charlotte, according to jail records and a police report. Police refused Monday to release his blood-alcohol level, and it was not immediately clear by 4 p.m. Monday whether he had been released from jail.
In January 2018, LaForce pleaded guilty to felony hit and run and misdemeanor death by vehicle. Investigators could not confirm whether he was intoxicated at the time of the crash.
His plea agreement said he would lose his license for a year and spend 30 months on probation.
He walked out of court that day, having received credit for the 60 days he’d already spent in jail and a suspended sentence of 13 to 25 months.
Jessica Morrell, 31, was walking across South Tryon Street on her way to dinner on March 4, 2017, when LaForce hit her with his car. She died from injuries two months later.
LaForce turned himself in the morning after the crash, and too much time had passed for police to conduct a blood test to determine if he’d been drinking, prosecutors said at the time. Four police officers smelled his breath, according to information revealed in court, and one said he smelled alcohol while the other three said he did not.
In court, Morrell’s uncle Martin Driscoll said he was sure LaForce had been drinking.
“Everybody knows Mr. LaForce was drinking and driving and that he went and hid out for the night until his alcohol level went down,” Driscoll told Superior Court Judge Bob Bell the day LaForce accepted the plea agreement.. “That’s irresponsible. That’s putting himself ahead of everybody else, something Jessica would never do.”
Friends and family members said Morrell was loving and generous, a woman who volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and the Special Olympics. She had already promised to watch every Disney movie with a pregnant friend’s baby, they said.
Some of her loved ones objected to LaForce’s plea agreement at the time he took it.
“How someone can walk away with a seemingly minimal punishment isn’t easy to understand,” one of her friends told the judge.