Charges dismissed against driver involved in fatal crash
HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The criminal charge of reckless homicide made against Vincente Virola Rodriquez, the man who was driving a tractor-trailer that slammed into the back of a family's SUV, have been dismissed.
On March 31st, 2012 Rodriquez was driving north on Highway 501 in front of the Tanger Outlet Mall when he hit the back of th Bennett family's SUV. Four-year-old Jada Bennett died in the accident.
In November, the Horry County Solicitor's Office filed a criminal charge of reckless homicide against Rodriquez. Rodriquez had a bond hearing and was granted a $5,000 personal recognizance bond. A judge allowed Rodriquez to return to his hometown in Florida.
A few weeks following the bond hearing, Rodriquez was given a preliminary hearing, a hearing where a magistrate hears from the state only. The Horry County Solicitor's Office brought forth the officer who arrested Rodriquez as well as others involved in investigating the accident. The magistrate dismissed the reckless homicide charge against Rodriquez, stating there was not enough probable cause against him to charge him criminally. The judge stated there was not enough probable cause to prove Rodriquez hit the SUV with malicious intent.
"For it to get up to criminal negligence, it's got to be more than an accident. It's got to be that someone had such a disregard for human life that their driving was to such a degree that it was recklessness," Horry County Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said.
Jada Bennett's mother, Miriam Bennett, said she doesn't feel justice is being served.
"Someone was killed. My child was killed," Bennett said, "he didn't slow down at least. He just went all the way. All the way. And somehow, he has to be punished."
Solicitor Richardson said it took him several months to put together enough evidence from the accident to serve an arrest warrant to Rodriquez, knowing all along it would be a tough case to move forward with.
"We knew it was a close call. But we also knew because of this truck driver's actions, a child was now dead. And we thought there was enough for an arrest warrant, and obviously there was," Richardson said.
There is still a civil case pending against Rodriquez. Solicitor Richardson said lawyers will likely go after Rodriquez for negligence; that punishment is a fine. Bennett said to her, paying a fine is not enough.
"No money is going to replace her," Bennett said.
Solicitor Richardson said at this point moving forward on a criminal level will be hard to do.
"Without some sort of new evidence, there's nothing you can really do," Solicitor Richardson said.
"As a mom I just want to see that there is justice here in this country," Bennett said.
Richardson said he went after a criminal charge because of how fast Rodriquez was driving as he approached a red light, and because he was talking on his phone at the time he hit the Bennett family SUV.
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