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Local teen charged in vehicular homicide
March 21, 2007 - Emergency workers try to pick up the pieces after the tragedy in this picture taken on that fateful morning.

Pembroke resident Tam Duc Le, 17, was arrested Tuesday afternoon and charged with three felony counts of first degree vehicular homicide for the March deaths of Bryan County teens Heather Arthur, 15; her sister, Melissa Arthur, 17; and Laura Cobb, 16. Le also is charged with reckless driving, failure to maintain lane and driving too fast for conditions.

"When I concluded the investigation, I came up with those charges," said BCSD Capt. Mike Maxwell, who led the investigation.

Le was arrested around 2 p.m. at Bryan County High School, where he attends school. A bond hearing is set for Thursday morning.

Sheriff Clyde Smith said he was originally going to wait to charge Le closer to the time the Bryan County grand jury meets in November, because of questions regarding Le’s health.

Le was in a coma for five weeks and suffered multiple injuries after the wreck.

Smith said he saw Le’s condition during a juvenile court appearance, where Le was facing multiple counts of vandalism for property damage in North Bryan.

"I noticed he had improved greatly," Smith said. "He was doing much better than we thought. It’s going to take a long time for this case to go through the court system unless he enters some type of plea.

plea. We needed to get started on this."

Le’s mother, Jennifer Le, said she was upset with the sheriff department’s decision to arrest her son at school as opposed to allowing him to turn himself in. She also said he is traumatized by the wreck and the events that have followed.

"I just know my son has been through a lot already," said the elder Le. "When he woke up (from his coma), he said ‘why don’t you just let me die. If my friends didn’t make it, why don’t you just let me go.’ I know the families (of the deceased girls) have lost their children, but I’m losing my son here too."

"He’s not the same person he was before the accident," Le continued.

She also said her son remains in poor health, is still going through physical rehabilitation, requires a great deal of medication and had surgery to have parts of his fingers and toes removed.

"His body is torn apart," she said.

As for the vandalism charges, Le was charged with three other young Bryan County residents of heavily spray painting and damaging property at the Black Creek Golf, Bryan County High School, Hendrix Park and a private residence during a weekend spree last September. Le’s mother said the case is still ongoing, but that her son deeply regrets the incident and is ready to make restitution.

As for the wreck, it occurred on Hwy. 119 just north of Bryan County High School. 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.

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