VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The man accused of hitting and killing a high school student in a crash one year ago has pleaded guilty.
Jerode Johnson was accused of being drunk when he hit a car carrying two Great Bridge High School students on Indian River Road in May of 2017.
Great Bridge senior Kaitlyn Duffy, the driver of the car, was killed at the scene. Her best friend Sabrina Mundorf, who was a passenger, suffered permanent injuries in the crash.
On Tuesday, the Duffy family didn’t get an apology, but they did get a guilty plea.
Johnson pleaded conditionally guilty to aggravated involuntary manslaughter, DUI maiming, hit-and-run, possession of cocaine, DUI and driving on a suspended license. He faces a maximum sentence of 47 years. His sentencing was set for September 10, 2018.
During Johnson’s first court appearance, a witness testified a box truck driven by Johnson was swerving on the road and ran into a ditch. As he came out of the ditch, his truck started to flip, then he crashed into the two students’ SUV head-on.
Officers said Johnson tried to run from the scene, had slurred speech, could barely stand on his own and couldn’t pass any of the field sobriety tests. He had a blood alcohol level two times the legal limit.
Court documents show Johnson was driving on a suspended license at the time. Johnson’s previous charges include shooting in public, possession of marijuana and driving on a suspended license.
The Duffy family has seen Johnson six times in court. It never gets easier.
“I wish he could have looked at me square in the eye, but I know he’s not allowed to,” said Kaitlyn’s mother Tammy Duffy. “Seeing him walk out every time is really hard. “It’s very hard. I would love for him to look me in the face and I would love an apology.”
Scott Duffy, Kaitlyn’s father, told 10 On Your Side, “It’s not something you ever think will happen to your child; she had so much going for her. Two life terms wouldn’t be enough for what he’s taken away from us and her friends and the community, and the girl that she was.”
Duffy was a Great Bridge senior and planned to go to Virginia Tech. She wanted to be a doctor.
“I don’t have any explanation. I feel like there is a purpose for her. I just don’t know what that answer is. She had a huge future ahead of her,” said Tammy Duffy.
“It’s still very raw everyday,” Scott Duffy added. “It’s hard. Not many hours pass without getting choked up or getting upset. Great Bridge, everywhere we go, there is constant memories, you know.”
Scott and Tammy have started a scholarship in their daughter’s memory. May 19 will mark one year since the accident. They say they plan to donate a bench at Norfolk Botanical Garden in her honor.
Last December, the Duffy family filed a $30 million wrongful death lawsuit against Johnson and his employer, Great Bridge Furniture.