Local News

Man pleads guilty in Durham bicyclist's hit-and-run death

Posted January 8, 2014

— A Warren County man pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges stemming from the hit-and-run death of a Durham man riding his bicycle six months ago.

Durham prosecutors said during a hearing Wednesday afternoon that Seth Vidal, 36, was riding on Hillandale Road near Interstate 85 just before 9 p.m. on July 8 when Maceo Christopher Kemp Jr. hit him from behind with his car.

Witnesses at the scene told police that a dark sedan car swerved before hitting Vidal, slowed and then continued on Hillandale Road.

Vidal died at a local hospital.

Kemp, 28, surrendered to police the following day and pleaded guilty to felony hit-and-run and driving with a revoked license – a charge related to a DWI charge in Orange County.

"I pray that one day you'll forgive me," Kemp told Vidal's family.

Vidal's relatives had urged Superior Court Judge Howard Manning to sentence Kemp to the harshest sentence under the law.

"Maceo Kemp didn't accidentally get behind the wheel on a revoked license," Vidal's domestic partner of nearly 11 years, Eunice Chang, told Manning. "He wasn't unaware of the laws. He chose to drive on a revoked license."

Manning sentenced Kemp to 12-24 months in prison with credit for 183 days of time served and nine months of post-release supervision.

Noting that her client had neither been drinking nor speeding, defense attorney Shannon Tucker said Kemp was on his way home from work when he hit Vidal and was afraid.

"Maceo knows it was wrong not to stop," she said. "He was afraid, and sometimes, when people are afraid, they do stupid things."

Vidal's family acknowledged that Kemp didn't intentionally kill Vidal but said the loss has had a huge impact on their lives.

"I miss my boy," his mother, Alicia Vidal said. "When Seth's life was taken, it took a big chunk out of my heart."

Vidal, a software engineer at Red Hat, was an avid cyclist, according to friends. Relatives said he always stood up for what was fair and right and was always willing to help others.

"I have lost the love of my life and my best friend – someone who frequently made me feel like the luckiest girl in the world and made me feel loved," Chang said. "I do not think I will see his like in this world again."



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  • jackaroe123 Jan 10, 2014

    "The issue isn't the "terrible law", the issue are terrible drivers. After all, laws don't commit fatal hit and runs, drivers do."

    Even if there is valid criticism of a law, it's inexcusable to blame the deceased victim who was abiding by that law and who was killed by someone else's unlawfulness.

  • cabguy Jan 9, 2014

    View quoted thread



    Actually, Stymie, it is increasingly likely he was riding to work. http://www.governing.com/gov-data/bicycle-trend-data-usa-cities-map.htmlBetween 2006 and 2011 the number of bike commuters has nearly tripled in Durham. Raleigh and Carey also have pretty healthy numbers (same map).

    Laws permitting bicycles full use of a car lane have been on the books in all 50 states since before cars were invented (had to do with horses back then).

    The issue isn't the "terrible law", the issue are terrible drivers. After all, laws don't commit fatal hit and runs, drivers do.

  • cabguy Jan 9, 2014

    View quoted thread


    Vidal was killed because a person who was not allowed to drive a car in the first place could not be bothered to look where he was going and ran over him.

    The size of the shoulders and the width of lanes had nothing to do with it. If cars were banned from that roadway then Vidal would be alive - it isn't the roads fault.

    Like so many other cyclists deaths, it is because of the driver, nothing else.

  • jackaroe123 Jan 9, 2014

    View quoted thread



    Too bad you can't connect the dots between rising gas prices, more people choosing bikes, and blaming it all on President Obama. You'd at least show greater sympathy toward bike riders then.

  • Wenchmaid Jan 9, 2014

    That is a terrible spot for bike-riding. I wish the city could improve that part of Hillandale because it feeds traffic straight to Duke and the VA. Just driving it on a rainy night is hazardous with poor lighting and no reflectors marking the lanes.

  • jackaroe123 Jan 9, 2014

    I'm glad this has been resolved pretty quickly, rather than dragging on for much longer.

    If a driver is drunk, being charged w/ a hit-and-run may be preferable. I don't know that there is any way to completely account for that, as we can't prove a driver is drunk unless, well, we actually PROVE it. I think driving drunk is a more serious aggravating factor than leaving the scene, so I'm not sure we could ever ensure absolute justice through sentencing mandates.

    View quoted thread



    I've mentioned this before... For what it's worth, I know the defendant, and he has some kind of birth defect, like a spinal issue, or something, that I was always under the impression contributed to a grimace that can look like a smirk at times.

  • Trekker Jan 9, 2014

    “He should not have been riding his bike in the rode on Hillindale.”

    Sorry but according to NC law your wrong. This is exactly the kind of attitude that needs to change. As long as these attitudes exist we will continue to see these tragic accidents.

  • foodstamptrader Jan 9, 2014

    It is hard to understand how "justice" is served when someone with a revoked license for DUI, kills someone, flees the seen of the accident, leaving the victim to die in the street, and is given 1 year sentence with 1/2 of it credit as served.

  • dcatz Jan 9, 2014

    "What a joke. Voluntarily break the law and kill a man, get slap on the wrist. Nice job, judge."

    Judges have very little discretion when it comes to sentencing in this state.

    http://www.nccourts.org/Courts/CRS/Councils/spac/Documents/FelonyChart_12_01_11MaxChart.pdf

    Felony hit and run is a Class F felony. Given his prior criminal record, the maximum sentence would have been ~24 months unless there were aggravating factors.

  • adrian Jan 8, 2014

    Typical! Open season on cyclists. Bicycles are modes of transportation, but if you ride one on the streets you are a target. Ride one on a sidewalk and you get a ticket.

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