Child killed by car, man faces murder charges

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 30, 2005

A Greenville man is facing a murder charge after he allegedly hit a 3-year-old child playing in the street around 5:15 p.m. Monday, according to Greenville Police Chief Lonzo Ingram.

The child, who was identified as Anthony JaKim Smith of Biloxi, Miss., was pronounced dead at Greenville's L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital that evening.

Joel Grace, who was driving a 1995 Lincoln Continental, picked up the child and drove him to the hospital, Ingram said.

&#8220We got a call from Stabler Hospital around 5:30 p.m. saying that a child had been brought in after being hit by a car,” Ingram said. &#8220We learned that the accident took place in front of 922 Dunbar Park Road, and the driver of the vehicle transported the child to the hospital.”

Smith's mother, Edwina Spurlock, said that she, her son and his uncle were outside in the street playing with a remote control car that he got for Christmas.

&#8220Plenty of cars rode by, and this car rode by and somehow he just hit him,” Spurlock said. &#8220When I heard the impact, I thought one of the remote control cars got crushed, but then when the car passed I saw my baby fall to the ground.”

Spurlock said right after the car hit her son, Grace stopped and the three other men who were in the car jumped out so the boy's grandmother and father could ride to the hospital with Grace.

&#8220The doctors told me that (Smith) suffered severe brain trauma, and he stopped breathing when he got to the hospital,” Spurlock said.

Once police officers arrived at the hospital to question Grace, Ingram said that officers detected the smell of alcohol from Grace's breath. The Greenville police report indicated that Grace had &#8220bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and was swaying back and forth.”

Ingram said his officers asked that Grace submit to a breathalyzer test, but he declined. A warrant was later obtained to secure a blood sample from Grace.

&#8220We don't know what his blood-alcohol level was just yet because the sample was sent to the state forensic sciences lab in Montgomery,” Ingram said.

Grace was then arrested and charged with murder and placed in the Butler County Jail, where is currently being held without bond.

Spurlock said that she and her family had been displaced from their Biloxi home because of Hurricane Katrina. The family then relocated to Atlanta before moving to Greenville a month ago.

&#8220We were getting ready to move into an apartment in just a few weeks,” she said. &#8220Š I'm not so sure we're going to move here now.”

Greenville police reports indicate that Grace and three other men had been riding around and drinking most of the day. Charges have not been brought against any of the other three men.

This is the first vehicle-pedestrian fatality in Greenville this year, Ingram said.

Spurlock said that funeral services are scheduled for 1 p.m. today at Harrison Street Christian Church in Greenville. Burial will follow at Hopewell Cemetery in the Searcy community.

A fund also has been established to help the family pay for Smith's funeral. Donations can be made at any Whitney Bank in the name of &#8220family of Anthony Smith c/o Edwina Spurlock.”

&#8220I'm very thankful for everyone helping out,” Spurlock said.