On July 20, 2005 after a three day jury trial, 22-year old Mary Miller was convicted of Leaving the Scene of an Accident involving Personal Injury or Death, for the May 13, 2004 incident during which, 36-year old Renee Jones was killed after being run over by at least two vehicles on Route 29 southbound at the Grace Street interchange. After convicting the defendant, the jury recommended that the defendant be ordered to pay a $1,500 fine and serve a 9-month jail sentence.
The facts of the case revealed that at approximately 1:00 a.m. on Thursday morning May 13, 2004, Renee Jones got out of a car being driven by her husband on the Grace Street entrance ramp to Route 29 Southbound. Witnesses on the roadway recall observing Ms. Jones walking in the middle of traffic in the southbound lanes. The last witness that observed Ms. Jones alive saw Ms. Jones fall to the ground in the right hand lane of traffic. Ms. Jones curled up in the fetal position and appeared to be crying.
The next person to see Ms. Jones, was Millard Chavis, a truck driver from Greensboro, NC. Mr. Chavis was driving his 18-wheel tractor trailer on Route 29 Southbound when he observed Ms. Jones lying in the roadway. At this time, Ms. Jones had already been struck by a vehicle as she was lying in the roadway with severe trauma to the upper portion of her body. Mr. Chavis was not able to stop his truck in time and ultimately ran over Ms. Jones' body.
Lynchburg Police responded to the scene and immediately observed Honda car parts lying in the roadway in a debris field very close to Ms. Jones' body. One of the car parts was a right front fender liner and the other parts were black plastic fragments that had been broken off of an air resonator. Police were able to determine that these Honda car parts belonged to a 1998-2002 Honda Accord. Police advised local media of the type of car they were searching for and tracked down numerous leads over the next six months.
In November 2004, police received a tip to check out the defendant, Mary Miller, a former Liberty University student that had moved to Tennessee only three days after the May 13, 2004 incident. The defendant was the owner of a 2001 Honda Accord. On November 18, 2004, Lynchburg Police traveled to Tennessee and conducted an interview with the defendant. During the interview the defendant provided a false alibi claiming that she was not on Route 29 Southbound on the night of the incident. The defendant was also very adament that she had not been in an accident and that she had never had any repair work performed on her vehicle.
The following day, Lynchburg Police took the defendant's vehicle to an auto body shop in Hendersonville, TN and quickly discovered that the defendant's vehicle had a broken air resonator. The entire bottom half of the defendant's air resonator was missing. In addition, police discovered that the defendant had had work performed on her car back only four weeks after the May 13, 2004 incident. The work on the defendant's vehicle included replacing a missing right front fender liner.
Police soon thereafter were able to break down the defendant's alibi by confirming that the defendant had not gotten off of work at the time she told police and that she had been on Route 29 Southbound during the time of the incident. Police also spoke to the defendant's co-workers in Tennessee that reported the defendant had admitted to possibly having killed a woman by running her over in Lynchburg. When her co-workers advised the defendant that she should contact police if what she said was true, the defendant responded by stating that she would never admit anything to police.
Scientists from the Division of Forensic Science in Roanoke testified at trial that the right front fender liner found in the roadway, which was a match for the missing fender liner from the defendant's vehicle, had Ms. Jones' blood on it. Scientist were also able to conclusively testify that the broken black plastic fragments found on the roadway were at one time attached to the broken air resonator removed from the defendant's vehicle.
During the trial, the defendant testified and offered another false version of the events as they occurred on May 13, 2004. In total, the Commonwealth called 17 witnesses and the defense called 10 witnesses during the 3-day jury trial.
At the close of trial, the Commonwealth requested that the defendant's bond be revoked, however the Honorable J. Leyburn Mosby, Circuit Court Judge allowed the defendant to remain free on a $10,000 secured bond pending her formal sentencing on September 16, 2004. Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Chuck Felmlee prosecuted the case for the Commonwealth.