Loved ones are outraged after the man accused in the May 18 wreck that killed Edward “Ted” Freeland Harris and gravely injured his wife was recently freed from jail.
Before the Lavista Road head-on collision, Benjamin Rollins, 24, had already been convicted of one DUI and was driving on a license that was suspended because of a pending DUI case, court and police records say. In the latest case, he’s charged with vehicular homicide, DUI and hit-and-run.
“I do not see how Benjamin Rollins deserves to be out of jail where he’ll have the opportunity to do this again to another innocent person, their friends and families,” said Mike DeLoach, an employee of Harris’ Tucker engineering firm and a friend of some 30 years.
A woman who said she was a relative of the suspect said he wouldn’t comment Wednesday. She directed questions to Rollins’ attorney, John Haldi, who said he had no comment on concerns about his client’s release, but Haldi pointed out that all suspects are entitled to a reasonable bond should a judge deem it appropriate.
Before Rollins’ release, the suspect had been in police custody since authorities found him a few hours after he allegedly told a witness he was fleeing the scene of the fatal wreck because he had no license.
DeKalb Magistrate Judge September Guy granted his $100,000 bond one week after the wreck, according to the court office, ordering him not to drive.
Court records show Rollins had pleaded guilty in January 2016 to DUI in DeKalb and served one year of probation. The arrest warrants related to this year’s wreck said he also had a separate pending DUI case, which is why his license was suspended.
The impact of the fatal wreck has been significant. The four people who worked for Ted Harris’ engineering firm lost a friend and are losing their jobs. The business, Freeland Harris Consulting Engineers, closes July 31.
DeLoach said he’s tried been trying to find a way to save the company but must now admit defeat.
“I’ve spent close to $10,000 and worked almost every day in the last two months due to this tragedy,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I’m not looking for a spotlight or a pity party. I just want people to realize the effects of driving drunk go well beyond the individual.”
DeLoach also remembers the memorial service being delayed weeks so the family, including the couple’s two college-age sons, could stand it. The trauma for the wife is naturally profound, and her attorney, Rob Katz, said she wasn’t able comment.
Julia Rae Roberts, a family friend of nearly 20 years, said she’s mourned Harris along with numerous others.
“Ted was the kind of man who always listened and was interested in what you had to say and never made you feel like there was anything else he needed to be doing when he was with you,” Roberts told the AJC. “I don’t understand why (Rollins) is out of jail.”
For DeLoach, it was often football that brought him and Ted Harris together, even though they typically went for different teams. Harris was for his alma mater Georgia Tech, and DeLoach for his Clemson University. They’d go to Tech games and text trash talk as the annual Tech-Clemson games approached.
As DeLoach has struggled to process all he’s lost and is losing, such memories are a comfort, but then there are moments like last week when he got an automated call from DeKalb County. Rollins had been released from jail, the voice on the line said.
“I was enraged,” DeLoach said. “This guy affected the lives of a lot of people.”
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