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Trial to begin in wreck that killed 7-year-old

Posted May 8, 2009
Updated May 11, 2009

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— A man who had been charged repeatedly with driving while impaired is scheduled to go to trial Monday in connection with a wreck last year that killed a 7-year-old boy.

Hipolito Hernandez, 31, of Parkertown Road in Four Oaks, is charged with second-degree murder, felony hit-and-run, felony assault, DWI, possession of a stolen vehicle, driving without a license, speeding and reckless driving in connection with the April 13, 2008, wreck that led to the death of Marcus Lassiter.

Marcus Lassiter, killed in Johnston County wreck Boy's family: DWI cases need more attention

Lassiter had been playing in his grandmother's yard and was trying to cross Heath Road when he was struck and killed.

"Marcus was a very special and sweet baby," said his mother, Sheila Lassiter. "He just wanted to be happy and just wanted to play with his friends. That's all he wanted to do."

Hernandez, an illegal immigrant, had been charged with DWI four previous times when the crash occurred. Two of the charges were dismissed, one was reduced, and the fourth was pending.

"It took the death of our child in order to get this guy off the street," said Marcus' father, Greca Lassiter.

The defense attorney in both dismissed DWI cases was Lee Hatch, and the prosecutor in one was Cyndi Jaeger. They are among six people who have been charged in a Johnston County ticket-fixing case.

According to indictments, 70 dismissal forms with Jaeger's signature were filed after she left her job in September 2007. The dismissal forms were filed for clients of Hatch and three other defense attorneys. A former deputy court clerk is accused of deleting the attorneys' names from at least two cases from the courthouse computer system.

Most of the dismissals cited in the indictments were DWI cases.

The two dismissed cases against Hernandez weren't part of the criminal investigation. Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle said the charges were legitimately dropped when officers didn't show up in court to testify.

Still, Johnston County is known for its high rate of DWI dismissals, and the coincidence of Jaeger and Hatch being involved with some of Hernandez' cases has upset the Lassiter family.

A WRAL News investigation found that 46 percent of the DWI charges filed in Johnston County in 2006 were dismissed, compared with 21 percent statewide and 20 percent in neighboring Wake County.

Doyle has created a special court for DWI cases in Johnston County to help raise the conviction rate, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving volunteers recently began monitoring DWI cases in the county.

Marcus' parents said they hope DWI cases will continue to get more attention in Johnston County and that their son's spirit will be remembered in his death.

"That picture (of his death) stays in my mind every single day, every day," Sheila Lassiter said.


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  • chance May 8, 2009

    Charged with DWI FOUR (4!) times?!?!?!? I think suit should be brought against the DA and judges who let him go. They wait until he kills somebody before they actually do something about it? That is completely insane!!!

  • Just the facts mam May 8, 2009

    If the driver cannot control himself, then we depend on our government to do this for him. The ultimate fault of this tragedy is the drunk driver, but the federal government did not do its job in preventing this illegal immigrant (undocumented immigrant as liberals like to call them) from entering this country, the county government did not do its job, and state government has to accept its failure also. The only innocent was the child and the honest people of the USA who try to follow the laws. Those of us not working for the government need to hold all government employees responsible and accountable to deal with lawbreakers such as this driver obviously was.

  • coolwill May 8, 2009

    If the guy was not in this country that accident may have not happen and the child would have been here today.

  • familyfour May 8, 2009

    being illegal had NOTHING to do with this.....

    do you have ANY idea how many LEGAL people in this country have done the SAME thing this guy did? (Does them being American make it any less wrong? NO!)

    Drunk driving is wrong, black, white, purple, American, Alien, or otherwise.

    I am sorry for the family's loss.

  • MamaDummy May 8, 2009

    none of this will bring him back

  • coolwill May 8, 2009

    What has Laraza, Harry Reed, Pelosi, Janet Napolitano, NC State legislators, UNC and Obama have to say about this, they all should receive a summons to appear in court, for wrongful death. OJ was found innocent but still had to pay.

  • fairyswearboots2 May 8, 2009

    It's sad a child had to die to get this Illegal Alien off the streets after so many DWI's. What the heck took so LONG!??
    I hope the corupted and this Drunk Illegal get whats coming to them....

  • Fiddlemom May 8, 2009

    If our immigration laws had been enforced this guy would not have been here to commit DUI's. This little boy would still be alive.

  • boolittlek May 8, 2009

    The alleged corruption/improper actions in the Johnston County cases are bad enough, but this just shows how little regard the justice system has for DUI cases. Offenders are given a slap on the wrist (or sometimes nothing) until somebody is killed. Somebody could be killed each time someone chooses to drink and drive. Strengthen the penalties all around.

  • whatelseisnew May 8, 2009

    too bad it is only second degree, I would like to see this guy put down. Once he is convicted, we need to put a bunch of politicians in the cell with him. They aided and abetted this killer.