Truck driver pleads guilty in hit-and-run that killed a Joplin student
JASPER COUNTY, Mo. – Lance Lee, 50, of Illinois, changed his plea earlier this week to guilty in a hit-and-run that killed an 8-year-old girl. He will learn his sentence for Leaving the Scene of an Accident, Class D Felony, on April 13, 2020.
The Court was advised that this was an open plea with no plea agreement.
The crime happened on September 27, 2018, around 7:00 a.m. in Jasper County, east of Joplin, on Newman Road at Sunny Crest Lane.
Authorities say a Freightliner tractor trailer, driven by Lee, was traveling east on Newman Road. Court documents state that 8-year-old Destiny Chambers was running north from her home along Sunny Crest Lane and ran into the path of Lee’s vehicle and was hit by the front of the tractor trailer in the eastbound lane of Newman Road.
Authorities say Lee’s vehicle did not travel off the roadway and did not hit any other object at the scene. Lee did not stop and continued driving east, leaving the scene.
Destiny was taken to Freeman West Hospital where she died from her injuries.
Lee was later found at YRC Freight in Strafford, Missouri. Court documents state that sections of broken bumper from the crash scene were taken to Lee’s location and matched to the damage on his tractor trailer. Authorities say other evidence, including clothing fibers, was found at both the scene and on the vehicle.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol arrested Lee and interviewed him about the incident.
Lee originally pleaded guilty in 2018 and was bound over for trial. His trial was scheduled to start in March 2020.
A candlelight vigil was held for Destiny on September 30, 2018.
The family of Destiny Chambers filed a wrongful death suit against the Lee and his employer, USF Holland, in October 2018. That case was voluntarily dismissed without prejudice later that month.
A few days after that case was dismissed, Destiny’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit naming the Joplin School District, Lee, USF Holland and the bus driver. That case is ongoing in court. It’s scheduled for a trial date in March 2021.
According to Missouri court documents, Lee was charged in another wrongful death case in 1994. That charge was dismissed after a settlement.