The courtroom came to a stop when the two crying women embraced.
One was the mother of Calvin Jackson Jr., a 22-year-old man killed in a March 7, 2007, wreck on Manchester Expressway. The other was the mother of Thomas Rogers — the man about to admit to the vehicular homicide of Jackson.
Muscogee County Superior Court Judge Bobby Peters called for a five-minute break Monday morning as the two women hugged. And then, after their arms had fallen to their sides, a tearful Rogers took Debralynn Jackson — the mother of his dead friend — in his arms.
"I wanted to tell you I was sorry so much sooner," Rogers said once the judge had returned and the guilty plea hearing resumed. "I was trying to reach out so bad to tell you how sorry I was."
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Rogers, Jackson and a third man had met at Soho Bar & Grill that night and all had left around the same time, Assistant District Attorney Michael Craig said. Rogers and Jackson were in one vehicle with Rogers driving the SUV as it crossed the median on Manchester Expressway about a half-mile west of Miller Road. Jackson was ejected from the 1999 Ford Explorer when it hit a tree and flipped onto its roof.
Craig said Rogers was drunk at the time and that cocaine was found in his system.
Rogers, 26, pleaded guilty to homicide by vehicle, driving under the influence, false statements and writings, speeding, improper lane change and no seat belt. Charges of homicide by vehicle under the influence of a drug and no proof of insurance were dropped.
Rogers faces three to 15 years in prison for the vehicular homicide charge. Craig recommended 10 years in prison, followed by five years' probation, though Rogers won't be sentenced until the completion of a pre-sentence investigation. He was taken into custody Monday.
"My life as I knew it had crumbled," Debralynn Jackson told Peters about when she learned of her son's death. "I had to call the coroner and identify my baby over the telephone by his tattoos . . . It took Thomas eight months for him to decide who was driving that vehicle."
Rogers initially told police that Jackson was the driver, though he later recanted. On Monday, he swore to Jackson's friends and family that while hurt by the wreck and on painkillers he truly believed Jackson was driving that night.
Peters told Rogers it was difficult to believe he thought his friend was actually the one driving that night.
"In essence, you destroyed two families," Peters said.