MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Ladarious Laffitte is charged with reckless murder for reportedly street racing down Vaughn Road and colliding with another car in 2017.
During opening statements state prosecutor Damien Lewis told the jury an expert will testify that the black box from Laffitte’s car will show he was driving 144 miles per hour seconds before he ‘drove through a Lexus.’ Lewis said it was such a high rate of speed it took Laffitte another 700 feet to bring his car to a complete stop after the collision. Wesley Pitters, who’s representing Laffitte, denied any wrongdoing on behalf of his client, stating there’s no evidence he was racing and disputed the black box data.
The state’s first witness was Richard Smith, who was driving the 2007 Lexus ES 350 which was split in half in the crash.
Smith testified that he lived in Georgia and he and his girlfriend came over to visit her daughter, Ashley Perkins, for Mother’s Day weekend. That night they went to dinner in east Montgomery and before returning to Perkins’ house, they stopped at the BP service station at Vaughn and Taylor Road to get gas. The pumps were out of service, which prompted them to drive down Vaughn Road toward Bell Road and turn left into the Mapco gas station. As they were turning left, Smith said it felt like a bomb hit his car.
“The car is spinning, glass is flying, we come to rest and we are looking opposite the Mapco,” Smith testified. “I have glass stuck in my head, we are gasping for air because the airbags had deployed.”
Smith said he was working to get his seat belt off when he called for Ashley, when he finally was able to turn around he realized the back half of the car was gone.
“I was looking at the ground,” Smith said.
Smith finally got out of the car and began yelling for Perkins, scanning the parking lot of a bank nearby where the back end of his car landed. Perkins was nowhere to be found.
“Someone yelled, ‘We found her,’ and I ran over and she was face down beside a tree,” he stated.
Smith quickly rolled her over and realized the chances of Perkins surviving the crash were minimal.
Pitters cross examined Smith, pressing him on why he turned into the gas station before the next intersection. Smith maintained he never saw Laffitte in oncoming traffic.
“I never saw lights and I never saw a car,” Smith told Pitters. “I would never endanger anyone to turn in front of oncoming traffic.”
The state called other eye witnesses who described similar details from their vantage points that night, including one witness who called 911, stating two cars were racing prior to the crash.
The trial will resume Wednesday morning.