Man back behind bars 2 years after hitting, killing woman

The man accused of hitting and killing a woman in 2017 is facing charges again. Two years ago, prosecutors could not prove Jeffrey LaForce was driving under the influence but this past Saturday they arrested him for DUI.

The new arrest brings back pain for friends and family of Jessica Morrell. They say he is dangerous behind the wheel.

“It feels like de ja vu all over again,” said Carolyn Larkin, a close friend of Morrell. “He left her for dead in the middle of the road because that was the better option for him.” 

In March of 2017, Morrell had the right away in a crosswalk at South Tryon and Bland Street. While she walked through the intersection, a driver ran a red light. Prosecutors say LaForce hit her and then took off.

“Your heart just burst into a million pieces because its Jess. It’s your best friend,” said Larking recalling when she flew in to visit Morrell in the hospital after the accident. Morrell suffered a serious brain injury and lost her fight two months later.

“She was the light of our lives, and she was taken from us, and we just feel like he got a slap on the wrist.”

As for LaForce, he turned himself in the morning after the accident. Then in court he entered a deal, pleading guilty to felony hit and run. But charges for involuntary manslaughter were downgraded to a misdemeanor by vehicle.

On Saturday, he found himself behind bars again, arrested for drinking and driving. Now Morrell’s friends are calling for harsher punishments to the driver they say did not learn from taking her life.=

“We are all here to fight for her and this next arrest was just kind of a slap in the face for us and we are not going to let it go.  Her legacy of being the most kind and fun will live on.”