Ridgeland woman convicted in fatal DUI of moped driver
A speeding, drunken motorist who struck and killed a moped driver in northern Beaufort County is headed to prison.
Jermasha Elexus Shadane Nelson, 25, of Ridgeland, was found guilty Wednesday of felony driving under the influence in the Sept. 5, 2016, death of 54-year-old Gordon Ward, Sr. Nelson was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
“Mr. Ward was simply on his way to work when he was struck and killed,” said Dustin Whetsel of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, who prosecuted the case. “The defendant knew she hit someone and attempted to get out of the situation. She had total and utter disregard for human life.”
Ward was headed north on U.S. 21 near Detour Road when he was struck from behind by a 2015 Toyota Camry driven by Nelson. A South Carolina highway patrolman testified Tuesday that Nelson topped 110 mph before the collision. The road’s speed limit is 60 mph.
By retrieving collision data from the Toyota, which collects information a few seconds before and after a catastrophic event, troopers could determine that Nelson barely lifted her foot off the accelerator before striking Ward’s moped.
A trooper, emergency personnel, and the initial 911 caller, each testified that Nelson appeared to be intoxicated and smelled of alcohol.
The 911 call was played during the trial.
“Let me walk away,” the caller said. A few seconds a later: “She’s drunk.”
“You can smell it on the driver?,” the dispatcher asked.
“Oh yeah,” the caller said.
A Beaufort Memorial Hospital Physician Assistant who treated Nelson after the wreck said Nelson was intoxicated.
“Based on her charting and the labs that were drawn, yes, I would say she was under the influence of alcohol,” the PA testified.
A Beaufort County General Sessions jury of seven woman and five men deliberated for less than two hours before returning a guilty verdict.
Circuit Court Judge Carmen Mullen handed down Wednesday’s sentence.
Whetsel is a member of the Beaufort County community prosecution team. He has been with the Solicitor’s Office since 2015.