The man who ran over three road workers in 2015 turned to the two survivors and their families in court Monday afternoon and said, “I apologize from the bottom of my heart.”
Marvin Lee Jackson, 32, alternately hung his head to look at the floor and watched the families out of the corner of his eye as they addressed the court.
“He killed my best friend, about killed me,” said Bryan Daschane McCloud, of Beulaville, one of the men who survived being struck by Jackson on July 24, 2015.
Jackson pleaded guilty Monday to felony death by motor vehicle; two counts of serious injury by vehicle; and driving while impaired in connection to the hit and run.
Driving 55 miles-per-hour in a 2013 Chrysler minivan around 5:45 a.m., Jackson hit Jesus Morales, McCloud, and Louis Kenneth Champeau, of Hubert, who were on the shoulder of Rocky Run Road near Old 30 Road working on highway maintenance at the time, said Assistant District Attorney J.B. Askins.
McCloud told the court he was in the hospital for 14 days, suffered a broken collarbone and cracked rib, and fell into a coma. He learned of his friend’s death, 57-year-old Morales, from the news.
“(Jackson) didn’t have no business drinking and driving,” McCloud said, and at the defense table, Jackson nodded.
Jackson had been at a friend’s house playing cards and drinking beer and was under the impression his friend would drive him home, Askins told the court. When he realized his friends were too drunk to drive, he took his friend’s van to drive himself home to get ready for work.
He never saw the workers, the lights or the signs, Askins said Jackson later told law enforcement. He continued driving after hitting the three men, finally coming to a stop at Big John’s Estates Complex A on Halltown Road.
Troopers with Highway Patrol and deputies with the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office said they could smell the alcohol on Jackson, Askins said.
Field sobriety tests were given and during those, Askins said Jackson showed visual cues of drunkenness. Jackson told troopers he had five or six beers and on a scale of one to 10 of how drunk he was, he thought he was at a three. When he was tested at 10:20 a.m., Jackson’s blood alcohol level was a 0.10.
After being arrested and learning of what he’d done, Jackson’s attorney, Lee Britt, said Jackson asked multiple times how the men were.
Morales, who was pronounced dead at the Onslow Memorial Hospital Emergency Room, came to the United States on a work visa from Mexico, Champeau told the court Monday. He was a hard worker who had never missed a day of work. In January 2015, he’d brought his wife and daughter here from Mexico — which Bland later commented on, saying, “He was living the American dream” — but Champeau thinks his family has now moved back to Mexico.
“(Morales) is not coming back, and you did that,” Champeau’s wife told Jackson in court.
She reminded Jackson her husband could have died and told Presiding Judge William Bland that Morales was funny, one of those people who lit up the rooms he walked into and uplifted those around him.
“It’s just a shame his life was taken from him for something so stupid,” she said.
McCloud told Bland he hoped Jackson never saw the light of day again.
“He had extreme remorse,” Britt said of his client.
Jackson was more worried about the others involved or affected than himself, Britt continued.
“Good people do bad things,” he added.
Jackson, a father of a 2-year-old, 4-year-old, and 7-year-old, has missed out on two years of his children’s childhoods so far, Britt said, and he asked the court to remember Jackson didn’t deliberately set out to injure anyone. His actions were not in malice and he’d lived a good life otherwise.
He’ll be haunted with guilt the rest of his life now, Britt added.
“I hope that he can find forgiveness in his heart for himself,” he said.
Jackson wiped his eyes as he waited for Bland to announce his sentence.
“The grief is really unimaginable,” Bland said.
Jackson was sentenced to a total of nine-and-a-half-to-14 years in prison: six months for driving while impaired; 73-to-100 months for Morales’ death; 19-to-32 months for injuring McCloud; and 17-to-30 months for injuring Champeau. He’ll have two years taken off for the time he’s already served in jail.
Jackson then stood and asked the court if he could address the families. Turning to them, Jackson said he knows nothing will change what happened, but he prays for them. McCloud put his head down and wept.
“I’m extremely sorry,” Jackson said.