CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police arrested a man Sunday after detectives say he ran a red light and seriously injured a pedestrian in South End, that man walked in and out of a court room on Tuesday without ever appearing before a judge.
According to CMPD, officers responded to a call of a pedestrian being struck on South Tryon Street near the intersection with Bland Street. When officers arrived, they found 31-year-old Jessica Nicole Morrell lying in the road. Medic transported Morell to CMC-Main with life-threatening injuries.
Jess Morrell's best friend says she was with a group at the Gin Mill celebrating a friend's birthday and when she left around 9:30 to head home police say a driver ran a red light and hit Morrell as she crossed the street.
"Ambulance came in less than 30 seconds they were amazing," Kennedy said. "They were there in no time and that's what I think helped save her."
Police say that witnesses told officers on the scene that a silver Dodge Avenger was traveling north on South Tryon in the left lane and struck Morell while she was crossing the road. Investigators say they were told that the driver of the Avenger has been dentified as Jeffery Jay Junior Laforce, 25. According to CMPD, Laforce did not stop at the scene of the crash.
Detectives utilized DOT cameras in the area and a license plate reader to confirm that the suspect vehicle was registered in North Carolina.
Police say that Laforce turned himself into police on Sunday. He was charged with felony hit and run and is currently being held in the Mecklenburg County Jail.
Investigators say the crash is still under investigation to determine if drugs or alcohol were factors.
"The person who puts a smile on your face," said Morrell's best friend Meg Kennedy. "She's just a ball full of joy is the only way to put it simply."
Morrell has lived in Charlotte for the last eight years.
"There's a lot of anger," said Morrell's boyfriend Ryan Mosher. "But you try to deflect from that and just focus on her it's really just about getting her healthy and getting her back to us."
Morrell suffered a traumatic brain injury. Mosher says she's made encouraging progress in the 48 hours since being hit.
"Her ability to breathe on her own a little bit and move her extremities is very, very promising," Mosher said. "But it's going to be a long road and she's going to continue to fight every day."
A gofundme page for Morrell's medical expenses had raised almost $21,000 at 8 PM, just 8 hours after being created.
"You're surprised that it got so quickly so fast but at the end of the day you look back and it's just a prime example of how loved she is," Mosher said.
Kennedy says she's feeling that love with all the support that's been at Morrell's bedside.
"To see the people and love in that room is overpowering," Kennedy said. "It's what makes you think it's going to happen and she will get through this and that's what keeps everyone going."
Kennedy says she hopes other people can learn from this that even if you have the right of way when crossing the street, you never know what will happen in the blink of an eye. If you want to donate, you can find the link to Morrell's gofundme page here: https://www.gofundme.com/love-support-for-jessica-nicole
LaForce is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday afternoon.