Hit-and-run death case could head to grand jury

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Warren County grand jury could decide in late October whether a woman who stepped forward after the Aug. 30 hit-and-run death of 33-year-old John Lee Noble should face trial, District Attorney Ricky Smith said Tuesday. 

The woman — who has not been identified by authorities or charged — contacted the Warren County Sheriff’s Office the day Noble’s body was discovered on U.S. 80 near the Pear Orchard subdivision. She has met with Smith and a Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol accident reconstructionist, and her vehicle has been impounded by the sheriff’s department.

Normally, a district attorney is given a case file by investigators that contains statements, evidence reports and identifies the charges police believe are appropriate. The DA then provides that information to grand jurors, selected at random from voter rolls, who decide whether a felony indictment and trial are justified.

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“I don’t have to have charges filed to present a case to the grand jury,” said Smith. “We’ve done it in the past. It is rare, though.”

Smith has asked MHP investigators to turn over their final report on Noble’s death by the time the grand jury convenes on Oct. 26.

“I’m not really convinced either way,” Smith said of the investigation thus far.

Noble, 4798 U.S. 61 South, was found beside the highway at about 5 a.m. on Aug. 30. Warren County Coroner Doug Huskey said it appeared Noble had been dead about two hours. Noble’s mother, Bonnie Lee, said her son had spent the evening celebrating his brother’s wedding. He appeared to have been walking west on the two-lane highway when he was struck and killed.

Leaving the scene of an accident is a felony, said Smith, and it is possible the woman could face additional charges, including vehicular manslaughter. Grand jurors also could conclude the driver was not culpable or did not realize the vehicle had struck a person, as opposed to a deer or other animal.

Earlier this month, state authorities arrested and charged a Lorman resident with felony hit-and-run. Bond was set at $75,000 for Shelby Sanders, 33, in the death of Christopher C. Vinson, who was 19 when he was struck and killed on U.S. 61 South on the night of Sept. 23, 2008. That case will also likely be on the October grand jury agenda.


Contact Steve Sanoski at ssanoski@vicksburgpost.com