2 indicted on reckless murder counts in deadly street racing case

2 indicted on reckless murder counts in deadly street racing case
Ladarious Laffitte’s Challenger slammed into the side of the of the sedan with such violent force, it split the Lexus in half.
The back of the car, where the deceased victim, Ashley Perkins, was sitting was flung 100 yards away from the front. (Source: Matt Waite)
The back of the car, where the deceased victim, Ashley Perkins, was sitting was flung 100 yards away from the front. (Source: Matt Waite)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A Montgomery County grand jury handed down indictments connected to a deadly crash that claimed the life of a young mother of two in May 2017.

Authorities say Ladarious Laffitte and Cory Romain were racing down Vaughn Road toward the intersection at Taylor Road when Lafffitte's Dodge Challenger hit the victim's Lexus ES 350 sedan, which was turning left into the Mapco gas station from the opposite direction.

Laffitte's Challenger slammed into the side of the sedan with such violent force, it split the Lexus in half. The front of the vehicle was still in Vaughn Road near the turn by the service station. The back of the car, where the deceased victim, Ashley Perkins, was sitting was flung 100 yards away. Perkins' body was found in the nearby bushes, and she was pronounced dead on the scene.

The driver and passenger in the front seat, both members of Perkins' family, were injured in the crash. Those injuries led to two first-degree assault charges for each defendant.

Both survivors told WSFA they are confident street racing claimed the life of their daughter.

A Montgomery Police Officer testified during Laffitte's 2017 preliminary hearing that crash data from the suspect's car, a Dodge Challenger with a Scat Pack or larger engine, revealed the defendant was driving 144 miles per hour just 1.5 seconds before the crash in the late hours of Saturday, May 14, 2017.  The car slowed to 106 miles per hour just half a second before impact.  The data from the car is comparable to a black box from an airplane. The officer also testified that Laffitte's blood alcohol level was .04 four hours after the crash, and they located empty alcohol bottles in the defendant's car.

District Attorney Daryl Bailey says his office has prosecuted street racing cases in the past, but it is not a common occurrence.

"10 or 15 years ago, I prosecuted with two young men who were racing up Fairground Road and killed one person and severely injured another person," Bailey stated.

Romain wasn't charged prior to indictment. Bailey said evidence is often presented to the grand jury without a prior charge to allow them to make a decision on the case.

"We presented the evidence to a Montgomery County grand jury," Bailey explained. "They evaluated the evidence, and these are the charges they decided upon after hearing the evidence and witnesses in the case."

Laffitte's defense attorney, Wesley Pitters, spoke to WSFA by phone, stating his client is innocent and plans to vigorously defend his case.  Pitters disputes the black box findings regarding the Laffitte's speed at the time of impact and any suggestion his client was street racing.

"This is hearsay, which is not admissible in court," Pitters stated. "I have seen no evidence that confirmed he was racing."

Pitters went a step further stating his client was never given a speeding ticket in connection to his alleged driving, despite the indictments at hand.

WSFA was unsuccessful in reaching Romain, no defense attorney is listed in his case.

Laffitte is currently out on a $150,000 bond. Those bond conditions required Laffitte to suspend his driver's license and refrain from driving a car. Romain is also out on bond, the same conditions were proposed for Romain, but a judge has not ruled on that motion.

Copyright 2018 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.