Suit filed against truck driver, employer in death of 8-year-old girl

Lance T. Lee

A judge ordered an Illinois man bound over for trial Thursday on charges that he left the scene of an accident that killed an 8-year-old girl in September.

Lance Lee, 49, of DeKalb, Illinois, appeared in Jasper County Circuit Court Thursday for a preliminary hearing, where Judge Joseph Hensley found there was probable cause for Lee to stand trial on one count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death. Prosecutors allege that Lee struck and killed Destiny Chambers, 8, on Sept. 27 while driving a semitrailer.

Chambers died from injuries she sustained in the accident that occurred while she tried to cross Newman Road to board a school bus. The Missouri State Highway Patrol arrested Lee in Strafford after locating him and the truck, which police said had a damaged front bumper and blood and clothing fibers in the grille.

Sgt. Mike Bracker of the highway patrol testified that police found Lee at a truck stop in Strafford after he called his employer to report an accident involving a deer along Interstate 44. According to Bracker, Lee initially said that he hit a deer. 

"As the interview continued, I explained to Mr. Lee that I didn't think that was a very truthful statement, and that we had other information that he was involved in an accident elsewhere," Bracker said. "Mr. Lee's final statement to me was that he was involved in an accident on Newman Road and that he had thought he hit a mailbox." 

Bracker went on to testify that Lee said he saw a school bus along the road, heard an impact and thought he saw a post and mailbox in his rear view mirror. 

"He said he was afraid of getting in trouble with his employer because striking a mailbox is an avoidable incident, whereas striking a deer wasn't," Bracker said. "If he had struck a mailbox, he would have lost time and it would have been on his driver's record with the company."

Bracker said the truck that Lee was allegedly driving had a broken headlight and bumper on the passenger side, as well as blood, human tissue and clothing fibers in the grille and wheel well.

The prosecution also called a neighbor, Samantha Kesinger, to testify who said she witnessed the accident. She told the court she was standing on her front porch when she saw Chambers running and attempting to cross Newman Road to reach a school bus that was parked on the opposite side of the road. 

She said she heard "a loud thud" and testified that the truck kept going after hitting Chambers. She said she saw no brake lights or screeching tires, nor did she see the truck change speeds. 

In cross examination, Lee's defense attorney, Thomas Carver, asked Kesinger if she saw Chambers hesitate to cross the road or if she looked before crossing. 

"Was it apparent to you that she did not look before she entered the roadway?" 

"I didn't see her at the moment, I just saw her running," Kesinger said. 

"Did you see her hesitate before she entered the roadway?" Carver asked.

"I didn't," Kesinger said. 

Kesinger went on to testify that when Chambers entered Newman Road, only a few feet separated her and the truck. 

Bracker and Kesinger were the only witnesses called by the prosecution, and the defense called no witnesses. Hensley, the judge, determined there was probable cause in the case and set Lee's initial appearance in a trial division for Feb. 11.

Recommended for you