Vivian Vu

Vivian Vu was a sophomore at Missouri Southern State University. She died from injuries sustained in an eight-vehicle crash.

A truck driver charged with several felony counts of reckless homicide in a multi-vehicle crash in November 2017 in southwestern Illinois that killed four people, including a Missouri Southern State University sophomore, has repeatedly failed to appear in court in violation of his bond conditions, prompting a new warrant for his arrest, according to court records.

Mohamed Y. Jama was charged in April 2018 with four counts of reckless homicide and eight counts of aggravated reckless driving. An investigation by the Illinois State Police found that Jama was driving too fast in a construction zone on Interstate 55 near the community of Hamel on Nov. 21, 2017, when his tractor-trailer slammed into other vehicles that had slowed or stopped, the Madison County state's attorney said at the time.

The crash killed 19-year-old Vivian Vu, an international studies major at Missouri Southern. She was returning from a Model United Nations Conference in Chicago with five other MSSU students and their faculty sponsor when their van was hit during the eight-vehicle crash. She died two days later.

The crash also killed 20-year-old Tori Carroll, of Alhambra, Illinois; and 20-year-old Hailey Bertels and 17-year-old Madisen Bertels, who were sisters from Staunton, Illinois.

Online court records show that Jama was held in the Madison County Jail in April 2018, with bond set at $150,000. He placed a cash deposit of $15,000 and was released.

On Dec. 10, 2018, Jama failed to appear for what was listed in online court records as a jury trial, despite having been notified of the date in advance. The court subsequently issued a warrant for his arrest.

The following month, Jama was "found to be in violation of (his) bond conditions," which had required him to appear at all court settings, and he was ordered to appear within 30 days, according to court records. A Feb. 11 court order notes that Jama failed to appear within the 30-day window, and it allowed for the forfeiture of his $150,000 bond.

Later in February, Jama's attorney filed a motion to withdraw himself as counsel from the case because of his inability to reach his client, whose last known addresses are in Colorado and Ohio.

"(The) defendant has failed to contact counsel for over six months, despite repeated efforts by counsel to contact defendant by telephone and U.S. mail," attorney Michael Mettes, based in Clayton, Missouri, wrote to the court. "All correspondence to defendant at all known addresses has been returned as undeliverable."

The last online docket entry on Jama's criminal case, dated June 30, reads, "Fugitive."

Officials with the Madison County State's Attorney's Office declined to comment last week because "it is an ongoing investigation," a spokesperson said.

Portions of a wrongful-death lawsuit filed last year in Madison County Circuit Court in Illinois by Phong Vu remain open. Vu was named the representative of the estate of Vivian Vu in Joplin's Jasper County Circuit Court.

A confidential settlement was reached earlier this year with FAF Inc., the company by whom Jama was employed, and by extension the truck driver, said James O'Brien, the Vu family's attorney. Claims against Keller Construction Inc., the general contractor that was overseeing the construction work on Interstate 55, are pending, with a trial date set for sometime next year, he said.

Emily Younker is the assistant metro editor at the Joplin Globe. Contact: eyounker AT joplinglobe DOT com.

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