After a four-vehicle crash Friday evening, the drivers and passengers pulled to the side of the interstate to wait for officers, according to police. That’s when Gaither, a passenger in a friend’s car, was struck by a driver who failed to stop, police said.
“When the driver attempted to make a lane change, the driver clipped the back of a vehicle and lost control, crossing lanes and struck Ms. Gaither as she was standing behind the vehicle in which she was a passenger,” a DeKalb police spokeswoman said.
The 31-year-old died hours later at Grady Memorial Hospital, the same place where she was born, her sister said. Flournoy was able to see her sister briefly, but doctors said Gaither’s brain injury was too severe.
A suspect, Lester C. Rodriguez, was arrested in a nearby county, police spokeswoman Michaela Vincent said Tuesday. He is facing charges of first-degree homicide by vehicle, reckless driving, hit-and-run and driving on a suspended license. Rodriguez had not been booked into the DeKalb County Jail as of late Wednesday morning.
The deadly crash was at least the third hit-and-run in metro Atlanta in recent days.
Shortly after 8 p.m. Friday, two vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian on Singleton Road at Thompson Parkway, according to Gwinnett County police. Julio Sandoval, 55, died from his injuries. No arrests have been made in the case.
Then on Monday afternoon, a man attempting to walk across Chamblee Tucker Road was struck and killed by a driver who failed to stop, according to police.
The pedestrian, whose name was not released, died at the scene after being hit around 3:30 p.m., Chamblee police said. Authorities are asking for the public’s help in identifying the driver. No description of the vehicle involved was released.
In Gaither’s case, the arrest brings some comfort to her family, including two other sisters and two brothers. But Flournoy said the family is heartbroken over Gaither’s death, which came just weeks after a separate family tragedy.
On Oct. 25, the siblings lost their mother, Tomeka Ivery, who was killed in a crash in Atlanta, Flournoy said. The family recently spent Thanksgiving together, she said.
“We never could’ve thought something like this could happen,” she said.
The family is again grieving, this time for the creative, artistic, free-spirited Gaither, who loved photography, painting and researching her family’s history. For Mother’s Day, Gaither had taken photos of Flournoy and her children by a lake. She had also recently organized a tour of artists who shared her passions, her sister said. Gaither often posted her creations on her Instagram account.
“That was her hobby, but it was also who she was,” Flournoy said.
The family has created a GoFundMe page to help with the costs of planning another funeral.
Anyone with information on the crash is asked to contact DeKalb police.