State News

Arrest no balm for family of hit-and-run victim

Posted January 6, 2012
Updated January 7, 2012

— Raleigh police on Friday arrested the man they say is responsible for hitting and killing a pedestrian Sunday on South Saunders Street.

Joseph Daniel Rechel, 55, faces a charge of felony hit-and-run. Police said Melissa Johnson, 32, was struck while crossing the road near Maywood Drive around 7:15 p.m. 

Rechel's neighbors in the area just northeast of the Meredith College campus told WRAL News that Rechel took his pick-up truck for repairs this week, including some work on the hood. Melissa Johnson Family mourns victim of hit-and-run

That information angered Johnson's aunt. "Anybody that can hit a human being – whether he knew he killed her or not – and drive away and stay away from that long, they are not worth anything. They have no humanity, no heart, no soul," said Teri Shaw.

Johnson's family gathered for her funeral on Friday, the same day police arrested Rechel.

Her mother, Tammy Johnson, said the arrest does nothing to ease the pain of her loss.

"I lost my daughter," Tammy Johnson said before turning to happier memories.

"She was always taking care of us. We were real close together, all of us," Tammy Johnson said. "It's just hard."


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  • tierneemalinadeveaux Jan 9, 2012

    What difference does it make how they identified him? All that matters is that he took his vehicle in to have some body work done. Now, even if he was not driving, he was an accessory because he was trying to get the damage fixed without reporting that someone may have been hit with his vehicle. Deeper than that, I get so tired of people defending the criminals. That's why the news is so full of stuff like this. If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck. If a person tries to cover up a crime, they are probably a criminal. If he had nothing to hide, then he should have come forward or better yet, he should have never left the scene in the first place. Unless he lives out in the woods, I am sure he heard on the news that the police were investigating. I hope they can him. He should be in Texas, where they don't mind putting criminals on death row...

  • John Sawtooth Jan 9, 2012

    I am glad this guy was caught. I have stood in this family's shoes myself. They are being very measured in what they say, and I have high respect for that.

    They have already realized that there is no real "justice" to be done here, there will be no real closure, this never really gets fixed. I wish them only peace and comfort, it will come slowly, but eventually.

    I hope the trial (and likely prison term) will be the jolt needed to correct this driver's behavior (our family was not so lucky, the perp continued to offend until his death some years later). But more than just prison is often required.

  • Lamborghini Mercy Jan 9, 2012

    paulej - Question: if he had stopped, would they have still arrested him? Would he have been charged with "manslaughter"?

    Honestly it depends on several factors; the person that was killed, how forgiving the family feels about the situation, and how the driver responds, after hitting that person. Some people walk free and never serve a day behind bars, others may goto prison, but hit-n-runs always result to time in prison.

  • STRAWBERRY LETTER 23 Jan 6, 2012

    I don't know how this man could live with himself. I'm glad they got him.

    I hope he'll get some serious time. Jumping a curb and then not stopping? She never had a chance. I'm so sorry for her family......It's senseless.


  • Alexia.1 Jan 6, 2012

    Question: if he had stopped, would they have still arrested him? Would he have been charged with "manslaughter"? I really don't like that word at all and I've seen several instances where a person's life is turned upside-down and financially ruined over such accidents. Perhaps if we were more forgiving of genuine accidents, these hit-and-runs would not happen?

  • slayerhil Jan 6, 2012

    A guy I work with has a friend who saw the whole thing happen. She was standing on the median waiting to cross and the guy jumped the curb and ran her over. He gave more details than that but I will refrain from posting it here out of respect for her family. I'm glad they caught him.

  • jcrew1979 Jan 6, 2012

    So sad and very glad they caught this dude!

  • krystalhocutt Jan 6, 2012

    thank you jesus they caught who did this...

  • jag53 Jan 6, 2012

    here's a link to a 2007 mugshot:

  • mfarmer1 Jan 6, 2012

    he was booked 06-23-2007 - In Jurisdiction Mi, DRIVE WHILE LIC REVOKED 20-28