LINCOLN — Jennifer Brock has carried a terrible burden in the 1 1/2 years since her young son died in a crash on Interstate 80.
The burden, which she shares with her husband, Robert Curry, is a feeling that they failed to protect their 2-year-old son, Aidan.
It's a large reason why the Bellevue couple pushed so hard for prosecutors to take action against the semitrailer truck driver who ran into the back of their Toyota Camry on a snowy afternoon in 2011.
On Friday, Lancaster County Attorney Joe Kelly filed a misdemeanor charge of motor vehicle homicide against the Delaware truck driver involved in the crash.
The decision brought a mother to tears.
“We couldn't protect him, but at least we can now get some justice for him,” Brock said.
Leamond Pierce, 53, of Claymont, Del., now faces up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted of motor vehicle homicide. A judge issued a warrant for his arrest Friday.
The prosecutor made the announcement ahead of Monday's deadline to file misdemeanor charges in the case.
Pierce was behind the wheel Dec. 3, 2011, on I-80 near Waverly when his truck hit the Toyota carrying the couple and their two young children. Aidan, who was properly secured in a child seat, died of severe head trauma.
The couple grew frustrated with the prosecutor's office as the 18-month statute of limitations for misdemeanor charges approached. On Friday, that frustration gave way to relief.
“It means the world to us,” Brock said.
Trooper Pedram Nabegh, an accident reconstruction specialist with the Nebraska State Patrol, said in an arrest warrant affidavit that Pierce exceeded the speed limit and otherwise drove too fast for the slick conditions. At least five vehicles were in the ditch near the crash site, which was just east of the Waverly on-ramp.
Seconds before impact, Pierce was driving 69 mph in a construction zone with a posted speed limit of 55 mph, the trooper said. The truck driver applied the brakes one second before impact, which reduced the speed to 60 mph.
“The truck-tractor semitrailer's excessive speed was identified as the primary contributing factor to the collision,” the trooper stated in his affidavit.
The trooper also noted Curry may have used “excessive caution” by keeping the Toyota at 36 mph as he passed a State Patrol cruiser parked at the end of the on-ramp, its lights flashing. The Toyota had completed the merger and was “established” in the right traffic lane.
Using the video camera from the parked cruiser, the investigator said 11 semi trucks that passed the cruiser just before the accident occurred were moving at an average speed of 33 mph.
Pierce gave the original investigator a written statement saying he was driving 30 to 40 mph and that the Toyota was stopped in the middle of the road.
Pierce, the man driving the truck, carries some baggage from his past: He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the 1981 shooting of a 30-year-old man in Wilmington, Del.
Pierce was on parole at the time of the crash, said John Painter, spokesman for the Delaware Department of Correction. A parole violation in August resulted in Pierce being placed under closer supervision, although he remains out of prison.
Painter said he had no details about the parole violation. He also said he was unsure if the terms of Pierce's parole would have allowed him to operate a semitrailer truck outside of Delaware.
The prosecutor said Pierce had a valid commercial driver's license at the time of the Nebraska crash.
In late 2011, Pierce was working for United Distribution, a Wilmington trucking company.
He no longer drives for the company, according to an attorney who represents the firm.
Attempts to reach Pierce were unsuccessful.
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