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Driver in fatal crash gets 12 months in jail / October 11, 2021
A high-speed crash last year in the Turbeville area that killed a recent graduate of Halifax County High School has resulted in a 12-month jail sentence for the vehicle’s operator, Jamel Lamar Faulkner of South Boston.

Faulkner, who was 18 years old at the time of the Aug. 23, 2020 crash on U.S. 58, appeared in Halifax County General District Court on Thursday to answer charges of reckless driving and operating a vehicle without a license. He was behind the wheel when a Honda Acura ran off the side of the highway and struck a tree, breaking the vehicle in two. Kolby Singleton, the car’s 18-year-old passenger, died at the scene.

General District Judge Darrel Puckett found Faulkner guilty of reckless driving and ordered him to serve 12 months in jail, with the possibility of reducing that time to six months with good behavior. Puckett handed down a six-month jail sentence, with all time suspended, for driving without a license.

Following the hearing, Faulkner’s attorney, James Midkiff of Halifax, filed an appeal of Puckett’s sentencing decision in Halifax County Circuit Court.

At Thursday’s hearing, Puckett weighed the circumstances of the crash and heard testimony from Kelly Cash, Kolby Singleton’s mother, and Midkiff’s description of how her death has devastated Faulkner. The young couple had planned to marry and raise a family together, said Midkiff.

“He has accepted failure to maintain control of the vehicle, it was not malicious, he and the family have suffered enough,” said Midkiff. Speaking on behalf of Faulkner, he apologized to Cash and members of the family for the pain his client’s actions have caused.

Faulkner, who did not testify, entered a plea of no contest to the charges.

The Commonwealth submitted several pieces of evidence. One was a statement provided by an eyewitness, a former law enforcement officer, who attested that the Honda was traveling at a high speed just before the crash. The second item of evidence was the report of Turbeville emergency responders who were first to reach the scene that Sunday afternoon.

“A former South Boston police officer was traveling the road at the same time [as Faulkner and Singleton] and he blew by him like he was sitting still,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Tracy Quackenbush Martin, who likened the Honda Acura to “a loaded weapon.”

Pointing to his lack of a driver’s license, Martin noted Faulkner had not shown the “skills, training, and knowledge he would have had if he had been licensed and should not have been driving illegally that day.”

Martin called Cash to the stand, where she offered emotional testimony on the death of her daughter. Kolby Singleton had graduated from Halifax County High School in the spring of 2020. She was the oldest of six siblings.

“She was my first child, I spent eighteen years raising her for the world and for the sixth day to lose her [she had turned 18 six days earlier] was the worst thing in the world,” said Cash.

“I think about it every morning — the biggest fear is losing your kids. I always taught her to wear her seatbelt everywhere she goes,” Cash said, adding that she feels responsible for her daughter being unbuckled in the crash. “I carry that guilt with me. It didn’t save her,” she said. At the time of the crash, the police report stated Singleton was not wearing a seatbelt and an updated report confirmed Faulkner was wearing his seatbelt.

Some of Kolby’s older siblings refuse to talk about the crash, while younger children in the family do not understand that she is not coming back, Cash said. Before stepping down from the stand, she pleaded to the judge, “Please take into consideration I will never see my kid again because of someone else.

“I don’t want her death to be in vain,” Cash said. “We are burying too many kids with mistakes.”

In the cross examination, Midkiff expressed his sorrow to Cash and thanked her for appearing in court. Upon questioning, she said she had never met Jamel Faulkner and was only informed of his relationship with her daughter the day after the crash.

The young couple was expecting a child together, and Faulkner has “suffered extreme grief and remorse” over Singleton’s death, Midkiff said. The defendant was rushed to Duke University Medical Center for treatment of a subarachnoid hemorrhage, a bleed to the brain, and other injuries.

While at Duke, Faulkner required a psychological consult for his role in the death of his girlfriend.

“As young people learn to drive, it takes time, it takes mistakes, and sometimes the mistakes are serious,” said Midkiff.

Addressing the reason why his client was behind the wheel, Midkiff explained that Singleton had driven to Raleigh-Durham airport to pick up Faulkner, and the heavy traffic “made her nervous, so she asked Jamel to drive them back to Danville,” said Midkiff.

At the scene of the crash, before he was taken to Duke, Faulkner admitted to an officer that he was going 70 miles per hour. Faulkner also admitted to using marijuana. In court Thursday, Martin said she was shocked the emergency room staff at Duke would test Faulkner for alcohol but not marijuana.

After reviewing the evidence and hearing testimony, Puckett sought to console Kelly Cash, telling her that her daughter’s death “is not your fault. The seatbelt is not going to do you any good when you are slammed by a tree.”

“I agree this is a tragedy for everyone,” Puckett added, but “[w]hen I look at what happened, there was no check for marijuana use at the hospital but we know he used it. We don’t know how fast he was going, but we know it was fast enough to kill his girlfriend and unborn child. I don’t care if she was afraid to drive after the traffic in Raleigh.” Directing his comments to Faulkner, Puckett said, “You should have told her, ‘you drove here, you will drive back.’ You chose to get behind the wheel without a license.”

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How absolutely devastating for this mother to lose her child, and then to have to relive the nightmare over and over because of a court case. May it be a mild comfort to her that the person responsible will not get off scot-free, although he will get to live his life while her daughter will never have the luxury. My heart aches for her and all her family. 😢

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