Local News

Mother Becomes Activist After Son's Death

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Pat Gates
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — A mother lost her son in a hit-and-run two years ago. After a plea bargain and loophole in the law allowed two people to walk free, she wants to make sure a similiar accident does not happen in the future.

UNC sports reporter Stephen Gates was hit and killed in October 2003 while changing a flat tire on Interstate 40. Witnesses said Emily Caveness was driving the SUV that hit Gates and that Rabah Samara got behind the wheel after Gates was hit.

That switch made all the difference in the eyes of the law.

"The person who did the hitting wasn't the person who fled the scene and the person who fled the scene wasn't the one who hit Stephen," said Guilford County Rep. Pricey Harrison.

Pat Gates, Stephen's mother, is trying to change the law that allowed Samara to avoid prosecution for the hit-and-run death of her son.

"There's no way to describe how awful that is to have this happen, and then to feel like a victim again," she said.

Harrison hopes to close the loophole with a new bill that broadens the scope of who can be charged in a hit-and-run, whether they were driving or not.

"After the trial, they both said they were sorry for our loss. Everybody's sorry for our loss. We would really like for them to be sorry for what they did," Gates said.

Gates said she will continue to try to change the laws she said robbed her family of their justice.

"I feel like what do I have to lose now? I can be an activist. I can work hard and I can try to make a difference in the world," she said. "There's nothing anybody can really do to me that's worse than what's already happened."

Harrison is introducing the bill on Monday. It would have been Stephen Gates' 29th birthday.


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