Family of fatal crash victim says drag racing was a factor

Family of fatal crash victim says drag racing was a factor
The scene of the fatal crash on Saturday. (Source: Matt Waite)
The scene of the fatal crash on Saturday. (Source: Matt Waite)
The scene of the fatal crash on Saturday. (Source: Matt Waite)
The scene of the fatal crash on Saturday. (Source: Matt Waite)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Family of fatal crash victim Ashleigh Perkins says drag racing killed their daughter.

For Richard Smith, it was a weekend fit for a picture frame.

"The day started out very cheerful," Smith described. "We all had breakfast together at Ashleigh's home, the kids were playing, we were all in a very joyful mood."

Smith and his wife traveled to Montgomery from their home in Stone Mountain, Georgia to celebrate Mother's Day with their daughter, Perkins, and another family member's birthday.

"We were here to love on her, and her boys and to have family time," Smith explained.

The celebration continued Saturday night, where the family attended a dinner event. Perkins left with her parents, and made a stop at the BP at Vaughn and Taylor Roads for gas, but the pumps were locked.

"Ashleigh suggested we went to the Mapco, that's where she got gas", Smith stated.

The family turned right on Vaughn traveling toward Mapco. Smith put on his left turn signal and started making the turn off Vaughn Road between Wells Fargo and Mapco.

"I never saw lights," Smith stated.  "As a matter of fact, I was doing 5 miles per hour while turning because it was totally clear, once it happened it was so surprising to me."

Smith believes the driver that crashed into his car was drag racing, stating the driver wasn't using his lights and was traveling so fast he couldn't hear the oncoming traffic.

"I didn't even have music on in the car, if I had heard something coming I would have stayed in the center turning lane", Smith said.  "We heard nothing.  It was so traumatic."

The affidavit from the crash reports LaDarious Laffitte was intoxicated and traveling at an excessive rate of speed down Vaughn Road toward Taylor Road when he hit Smith's car.  Laffitte was arrested on the scene and charged with murder.

"As I turned, I got halfway into the drive and a tremendous boom occurred," Smith recounts.  "My wife and I were gasping for air. My wife said I can't hardly breath, I said I think we were in an accident, but I'm not sure."

As Smith quickly attempted to get out of the car, and help his wife who was trapped in the passenger seat, he made the grave realization that would change their lives.

"I yelled to the back and said, 'Ashleigh are you ok back there?' and when I looked, all I could see was grass. The entire rear end of my car was gone," Smith said.

The speed and impact of the crash split Smith's sedan in half.  The back of the car was thrown 100 feet away into a different parking lot.

"They found Ashleigh in the bushes," Smith said.  "She was lying about 60 yards from our car, the other part was about 40 yards from us.  It was a tremendous crash."

Perkins was pronounced dead on the scene.

"It was a horrific scene," stated Smith. "It was just so overwhelming that she would end up where she was and the car was totally severed in half."

Smith plans to use his daughter's death as a platform to bolster the laws for street racing.  A misdemeanor crime he was largely unfamiliar with, until now.

"As we were turning into the service station, there were people standing everywhere," Smith explained. "As we were waiting to turn we all were thinking, 'why are these people standing out there?', but those people were there to determine who wins this race. It needs to be discussed and brought to the surface and dealt with. We're told this happens every Saturday night."

Smith said Perkins had finished her undergraduate work, and was enrolled to start working on a Master's degree this fall. Perkins leaves behind two young boys, one and six years old.

"She was a free spirit who loved her boys dearly," Smith said of his daughter. "She was fun-filled, and a very smart girl."

Smith and his wife remain in Baptist South for internal injuries from the crash.  Laffitte is out on a $150,000 dollar bond for murder.

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