Location: Lawrence

Cyclist’s Killer Pleads Guilty in Lawrence

Joel Hernandez, who was driving drunk when he killed Rachel Leek as she rode her bicycle in Lawrence, Kansas last October, and then drove off and left her to die, pleaded guilty to two minor charges this morning in Douglas County:

Rachel Leek Scene A 22-year-old Lawrence man pleaded guilty Friday morning to two charges related to an October hit-and-run accident that resulted in the death of a Lawrence woman who was riding a bicycle.

The man, Joel C. Hernandez, admitted that in the early-morning hours on Oct. 16 he was intoxicated when he drove a car and struck 20-year-old Rachel Leek south of 10th and Tennessee streets.

“I believe that it had a bearing on my reaction time and that it had a bearing on the reaction of me leaving the scene,” Hernandez said while describing the night’s events to District Judge Michael Malone.

Malone accepted Hernandez’s guilty pleas to a felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident involving a death and to a misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated.

Rachel LeekHe had originally faced charges of leaving the scene of an accident that involved a death and failure to report an accident, both felonies; vehicular homicide, a misdemeanor; and improper passing, a traffic infraction.

Attorneys for both sides told Malone they believed Hernandez had no criminal history prior to the current case and that he would likely face a probation sentence for the felony charge under state guidelines.

James McCabria, an assistant Douglas County district attorney, said prosecutors plan to ask Malone to have Hernandez serve 60 days in jail. He would also have to perform 200 hours of community service in addition to any fines in the case.

[ Read more from The Lawrence Journal-World: Lawrence man pleads guilty in October fatal hit-and-run that killed bicyclist ]

What can you say?

Perhaps we should take solace in that he did admit his guilt, in that he will serve some time. It doesn’t always work out this way (thinking back to 2008, when David Dillon’s killer was not even charged under similar circumstances of negligence and inattention (though without the intoxication and leaving the scene of the crime)).

But still: 60 days in jail, community service, probation.

It doesn’t sound like much for taking someone’s life…

Sentencing is scheduled for May 20th. Hernandez is currently free on bond.

See additional coverage from Lawrence: LJWorld.com.

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About The Author

By Randy Rasa, editor/webmaster at Kansas Cyclist, the web's premier Kansas cycling information site, featuring authoritative guides to Kansas cycling clubs, bike shops, organized bike rides, touring, trails, and much more. [learn more]

2 responses to “Cyclist’s Killer Pleads Guilty in Lawrence”

  1. Mark Rainey says:

    The article doesn’t mention if he lost his driving privledges. I certainly hope so.