Local News

Trucker charged in crash that killed NC mental health director

Posted July 5, 2012 11:00 a.m. EDT
Updated July 5, 2012 6:47 p.m. EDT

— Police on Thursday charged the driver of a logging truck in a Wednesday afternoon crash in north Raleigh that killed the head of North Carolina's mental health services.

Clifton Paul Ellis Jr., 28, of 1715 Richardson Bass Road in Kenly, was charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle and failure to reduce speed to avoid a collision.

Ellis' truck, which is owned by Creech's Trucking of Smithfield, hit bicyclist Steven Laverne Jordan, 49, of Raleigh, from behind in the right lane of northbound Louisburg Road north of Perry Creek Road.

Investigators determined that Ellis didn't shift far enough into another lane to pass Jordan, according to a police report released Thursday morning. Ellis told police that traffic in the center lane of Louisburg Road prevented him from moving into that lane before the crash.

Jordan was thrown more than 50 feet after the crash, according to the police report. The truck was traveling well below the speed limit – 35 mph in a 50-mph zone – the report states.

"From a hobby standpoint, he died doing what he loved. He loved cycling," said Tad Clodfelter, president and chief executive of Southlight, which works with alcohol and drug addicts.

Jordan had been the director of the North Carolina Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services since 2010.

He previously served as the state director of ResCare-North Carolina, where he managed programs for people with disabilities, and he worked with the North Carolina MENTOR program, which provides behavioral health services for at-risk youth.

“Steve’s extensive background in community-based care for individuals with developmental disabilities made him an excellent leader for our transition to a new model for behavioral health care in North Carolina,” Al Delia, acting secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement. “He had a passion for his work and for the people we serve, and he will be sorely missed.”

Mental health and substance abuse service providers also mourned Jordan's loss.

"It's just truly devastating. Steve was doing wonderful things at the state level, but even more importantly than that, he was just a tremendous individual," Clodfelter said. "You might not have always agreed with Steve – with good leaders, everybody doesn't always agree – but you never failed to like him."

"When he made a decision, he made it as he thought was in the best interest of people served by the system, not the system itself. That's a unique skill," said Dave Richard, executive director of The Arc of North Carolina, which serves people with developmental disabilities.

"Steve was a close personal friend, and certainly, most of our relationship centered around the mental health industry. Yet, we all admired him as a person, father, husband (and) industry leader. He was quick with his wit, yet was a true professional in every sense," Gene Rodgers, director of strategic development for Family Preservation Services of North Carolina, said in a statement.

"Those of us who knew him well enjoyed being around him and were privileged to engage with him in work that is important to the people of North Carolina," consultant Peyton Maynard said in a statement. "Steve spent his career helping people, counseling those who were facing difficulties, caring for those who could not care for themselves. He was a leader in business and government. He wanted to make this state a better place and did so by deep commitment to his work and exemplary leadership."