Pembroke teen Tam Duc Le pleaded not guilty in Bryan Superior Court this week to three counts of vehicular homicide for the deaths of Pembroke teens Heather and Melissa Arthur and Laura Cobb.
Le also is charged with reckless driving, failure to maintain lane and driving too fast for conditions. The wreck occurred March 21, 2007 on Hwy. 119 just north of Bryan County High School.
Bryan County Sheriff’s Department Captain Mike Maxwell said Le, driving a red Chevrolet Cavalier, was traveling south when he apparently lost control.
After crossing the center line his car collided with a Ford pickup driven by Robin Wilkes of Ellabell.
Wilkes was taken by ambulance to East Georgia Regional Medical Center in Statesboro, where she was treated and released the following day.
Le’s attorney, Hugh McCullough, said Le’s plea was standard procedure.
"No matter what, we always enter ‘not guilty’ at this stage," he said. He also said he just received all the evidence in the case which he will be reviewing.
"I’m not exactly sure where things are going to lead us," McCullough said. "I know the allegations here (of Le’s erratic driving). Tam has no recollection of the actual collision and he doesn’t remember much of getting into car that morning. This case is going to hinge on whether this was a case of reckless driving or driving too fast for conditions."
He said reckless driving would entail felony vehicular homicide in the first degree as opposed to second degree.
Meanwhile, Maxwell is confident about the case he has helped put together for the prosecution side.
"We have a strong case against Mr. Le and we look forward to explaining the details of our evidence in court," he said.
Maxwell said he has handed everything over to McCullough and the ball is in his court.
A trial date has not been set.
Le was in a coma for five weeks following the accident and his mother, Jennifer Le, said he still has a lot of medical problems stemming from the wreck.
She said she fears that her son is portrayed as a bad guy in the media.
"I hope people understand that he didn’t intend to do it," Jennifer Le said. "This could have happened to anyone."
She said his health has improved, but he is having severe back pain. He also is unable to wear regular shoes due to foot injuries stemming from the accident.
Meanwhile, the family of the deceased is having an increasingly hard time dealing with their loss, according to Brenda France, grandmother to the Arthur girls."People say it gets easier, but it’s just getting harder – which I didn’t think was possible," France said. "I have to take my daughter (Sherry Arthur – mother to the deceased) every other week to the doctor to be treated for depression. She’s going through hell – and we are too by just watching her go through this. Every time I see a school bus go by I think, for just a split second, that my grandbabies will be home from school soon and they’ll be walking in the door. Our whole family is still going through a lot of pain."
This month also marks the one year anniversary of the accident. France said a candlelight vigil is being planned at the accident site on March 21 at 8 a.m. – exactly one year from the day and time of the crash. Residents who come are encouraged to park on Old Patrick Road.
Note: Also appearing in Bryan County Superior Court on March 3 was George McNeil who faces a charge of felony murder. This stems from an incident on Sept. 15, 2005 at Hwy. 204 in Ellabell in front of the Methodist Church when Michael Taranovich was allegedly shot and killed. The case was continued and a new court date has not been set.