A memorial was growing Mon., April 18, 2016, at the site where three children were struck by a vehicle that jumped a curb in northwest Atlanta. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

Suspect in fatal traffic accident to face vehicular homicide charge

Authorities have upgraded to vehicular homicide one of the charges against Ryan Lisabeth, the motorist accused of hitting three children and killing one of them in northwest Atlanta Friday.

Lisabeth, 28, was arrested on multiple charges, including DUI, serious injury by vehicle, reckless driving, driving on the wrong side of the road and possession of a controlled substance, according to online Fulton County Jail records. He was denied bond Monday.

His record includes three DUI convictions, a cocaine-related conviction and an open DUI case that he was scheduled to be sentenced for at the time he went before a judge on the latest charges Monday, Channel 2 reported. Further, he was in a treatment facility at the time of Friday’s incident. His attorney declined to comment about his case.

Isaiah Ward, 9, was taken off life support Sunday afternoon, his family said during a vigil at the site of the crash, which occurred Friday night on Joseph E. Boone Boulevard and Mayson Turner Road. His older brother, 11-year-old Roland, and the other injured child, 12-year-old Timothy Hood, remained in critical condition late Sunday at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, Channel 2 reported.

Investigators said Lisabeth tried to get away after the incident. Atlanta police provided more details about the accident Monday, saying he was “traveling on Joseph E. Boone at a high rate of speed when he struck a passing truck on the rear as he crossed over the center line. The suspect traveled up onto the sidewalk where three children were standing and talking. The suspect struck the three children, causing them to be thrown in multiple directions. The vehicle continued and struck a second vehicle before becoming disabled and coming to an uncontrolled stop.”

Isaiah’s uncle, Freddie Smith, told Channel 2 his first reaction was to inflict pain on Lisabeth.

“I wanted him to suffer,” Smith said, breaking the word into two, hard syllables. “SUF-FER.”

The neighborhood where the children were struck, Washington Park, is among the most blighted in Atlanta. It’s just a mile and a half west of the Georgia Aquarium, Centennial Olympic Park, College Football Hall of Fame and the Center for Civil and Human Rights downtown. The skyscrapers of midtown are in view. Washington Park, along with the adjacent Vine City and English Avenue neighborhoods, have been the focus of numerous revitalization attempts. While there are longtime working-class residents there, the area has become a haven for drug dealing and other crime.

“It’s dangerous out here, really dangerous,” said Anthony Williams, a security guard at Bright Futures a private school on Joseph E. Boone Boulevard. “That’s what’s going on out here, ‘the business.’ Everybody’s out here doing all types of drugs.”

On Monday morning, children about Isaiah’s age were playing in the school yard of Kipps Ways Academy, another heavily-gated charter school just a short walk away from the scene of the crash. The boulevard is dotted on both sides with rundown apartment buildings, grimy corner markets and boarded up buildings. A makeshift memorial to Isaiah of candles, stuffed toy animals and signs punctuates the boulevard’s bleakness. Williams said gunshots are a common sound in the neighborhood, and crime is such a concern that his school’s campus is guarded 24-hours a day.

“We had a window get hit the other day,” Williams said, his gun holstered on his hip. “But I know at the end of the day, God has got his arm around us.”

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