Family still lacking answers in fatal hit-and-run

Melissa Johnson
February 4, 2013 1:18:44 PM PST
A family says they are still wondering why a Raleigh man left the scene after hitting and killing a woman with his truck more than a year ago.

The accident happened New Year's Day 2012 on South Saunders Street in downtown Raleigh.

Authorities said 32-year-old Melissa Johnson was hit by Joe Rechel's truck after she stepped off the median.

Rechel was connected to the accident six days later. Once caught, Rechel confessed he was involved.

Evidence did show that Johnson had been drinking, was not in a crosswalk, and that Rechel actually had a green light.

His friend told the judge that he was with Rechel an hour before the crash and that Rechel was sober at the time.

On Monday, Rechel told Johnson's family he was sorry about the accident, but didn't explain why he drove away from the scene.

The only explanation came from a description of a police interview in which Rechel allegedly said that Johnson jumped out in front of him and he knew she was a "goner."

He said at that point, he didn't want to ruin the lives of his wife and young daughter.

Johnson's family said that his explanation didn't make sense -- that if he had stopped he might have been able to save Johnson's life.

Rechel was sentenced to two months in prison and then ordered to serve four more days on the anniversary of the crash and on Johnson's birthday for the next two years.

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