Wilson County, N.C. — Family members of two young women killed last summer by a drunken driver gathered outside the Wilson County Courthouse Friday to protest what they call a flaw in the legal system when it comes to driving while impaired laws.
The gathering was organized by family members of Nikki Whitley and Aimie Sullivan, who were hit and killed in June by a drunken driver.
Jimmy Coleman pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the case. Court records show his license was revoked at the time for a 2008 DWI conviction.
WRAL News has done several follow-up investigations into Coleman's case and Wilson County's high rate of dismissing traffic citations. So far, the district attorney’s office has declined to comment.
“Somewhere between the arrests and the convictions, they're falling through the cracks,” said Beth Parker, who’s concerned about the law and wants tougher penalties.
Her own family member, Peter Nowell, was expected in court Friday on DWI-related charges, but his case was delayed.
Records show Nowell has been arrested on DWI charges four times since 2009 and twice already this year on charges of driving with a revoked license.
“He's going to kill somebody,” Parker said. “He's going to kill himself or somebody else. That’s the bottom line, if he's not taken off of the streets.”
Craig Lloyd, executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in North Carolina, said the group is pushing for a new state law requiring ignition interlock systems as part of punishment to help reduce repeat offenses.
It requires a person to blow into a device to prove he or she is sober before starting a car.
“We've seen other states across the United States that have seen that implemented for all offenders, and they've seen dramatic decreases in arrests and dramatic decreases in deaths and injuries,” Lloyd said.
Parker and others say tougher penalties could have saved the lives of Whitley and Sullivan.
“I want to know that I did what I could do to prevent that from happening (again),” Parker said. “I've done my part. Now the court needs to do theirs.”