Not guilty plea in fatal Florence crash

Posted at 5:07 PM, Jan 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-13 17:34:59-05

BURLINGTON, Ky. — The motorist involved in the March 15 crash that killed a Florence grandfather and his toddler grandchildren pleaded not guilty Wednesday to manslaughter and assault charges.

A grand jury indicted 23-year-old Jessica Hood in December on three counts of vehicular manslaughter after, police said, she struck two adult pedestrians and three children who were walking southbound on the northbound shoulder of Weaver Rd. in Florence, which has no sidewalks and narrow, 8-foot shoulders.

Jessica Hood (Provided)

Both of those adults, one of whom was 52-year-old Charles Napier, were pulling wagons carrying small children, including Napier's 13-month-old twin grandchildren Sean and Samantha May.

Napier and the twins died from injuries incurred during the crash.

Daniel Dickerson, Hood’s attorney, told WCPO that, while the crash was tragic, it was not criminal and that there is nothing to indicate his client was under the influence, texting or distracted in anyway.

“You know, she’s trying to deal with this horrible thing,” Dickerson said. “She has no criminal history, no driving history, no speeding, no reckless driving, so this is out of character for her.

“She’s trying to deal with this best she can,” he said.

Susan Elam, the other adult involved in the crash, was injured, along with Sean and Samantha’s older brother, Ethan.

Both Elam and Ethan May suffered minor injuries. Hood faces two counts of vehicular assault as a result.

A WCPO investigation found this stretch of Weaver Rd. has seen more than 100 crashes since 2011. The March 15 crash was the first fatal crash the stretch has seen in that time.

Despite the lack of pedestrian infrastructure, Florence police told WCPO in March the roadway has “a lot” of walkers.

Napier and his family were walking home to Napier’s nearby residence when they were struck, according to Florence Police spokesman Tom Grau.

"We have a lot of foot traffic on that road," Grau said. "There are lots of residents on both sides and so it's not uncommon to see people walking along the road."

Dickerson said he plans to hire an expert to recreate exactly what happened on Weaver Rd. that March afternoon. Hood is due back in court Feb. 17.

WCPO's Jason Law and John Genovese contributed to this report.