Antifreeze trail to 2011 hit-and-run suspect leads to guilty plea

tchitwood@ledger-enquirer.comFebruary 26, 2013 

A Columbus patrol officer’s intrepidly tracking a trail of antifreeze from a fatal 2011 crash to a hit-and-run suspect’s mobile home culminated Monday in the defendant pleading guilty to multiple traffic charges.

After his guilty plea, Jeffery Lanel Larry’s sentencing was marked by Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Cooley reading a letter from the mother of Preston Davis, 20, of Phenix City. Davis was ejected from a 1999 Ford Explorer when the Geo Prizm that Larry was driving T-boned the Ford on Victory Drive at 30th Avenue.

As Cooley read Jacqueline Davis’ letter describing what her son meant to his family, the mother sat beside her and wept, Cooley said.

Judge William Rumer sentenced Larry, 56, to 15 years in prison with 14 to serve. Cooley said she earlier had offered Larry a plea bargain of 15 years with 12 to serve, but he rejected it.

The prosecutor said credit for closing the case goes to the police officer who carefully tracked the leaking antifreeze. A motor squad sergeant Tuesday identified the officer as Cpl. Jeff Jones.

Larry’s charges included four counts of first-degree homicide by vehicle, two counts of driving under the influence based on tests showing he’d used cocaine and marijuana, one count of unsafe driving under the influence for having registered a blood-alcohol content of .056 grams, and one count each of reckless driving, running a stop sign, leaving the scene of an accident and having no insurance.

Police gave this account of the Nov. 23, 2011, collision:

Traveling southwest on 30th Avenue toward Victory Drive about 11 p.m., Larry ran the stop sign just as the 1999 Explorer driven by Marquise Anderson came northwest in Victory Drive’s center lane. The Geo Prizm smashed into the passenger’s side of the Explorer, which “spun out of control, rolling over multiple times, coming to rest on its roof facing oncoming traffic in the right lane of Victory Drive,” read the police report.

Ejected from the Explorer’s front passenger seat, Davis lay dead on the road. Anderson, of Seale, Ala., and Niquaylas Davis of Phenix City, were injured and taken by ambulance to The Medical Center. Each was 23 at the time.

A witness reported seeing a small, badly damaged car with its lights off speeding away, heading southeast on Victory Drive. Jones followed the antifreeze trail from the crash site to a mobile home lot at 3150 Plateau Drive, where Larry had tried to conceal the Prizm behind his trailer and a junked vehicle, police testified during Larry’s Nov. 25, 2011, Columbus Recorder’s Court hearing.

They said Larry admitted having driven the Prizm when they confronted him.

Preston Davis’ family said Davis was a good student who had played football at Russell County High School, attended Chattahoochee Valley Community College and had just been accepted at another college. “Whatever he did, he put forth his absolute best,” said his uncle, Ricky Howard. “He was everything you’d want a young man to be.”

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