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When his football bounced into the street in December 2013, 12-year-old Nicholas Murrell darted out to retrieve it. A Chevy Camaro, drag racing through a residential Miami Gardens neighborhood, fatally hit Nicholas before driving off.
Behind the wheel: a part-time DJ named Schnider Jean.
But two months later, before detectives could piece together his identity, Jean’s reckless driving took another life. This time behind the wheel of a speeding Cadillac, Jean tried to change lanes suddenly on Northwest 27th Avenue, losing control, flying over a concrete median — and directly into a Honda driving the opposite way.
Killed in the wreck was a 75-year-old grandfather, Norman Crews.
The second time, Jean did not get away. State troopers arrested him on the scene. On Friday, the 28-year-old accepted a sentence of 15 years in prison, plus 10 years of probation, for the separate wrecks that shattered two families.
“You ripped my dad away from me on my birthday,” Crews’ daughter, Cynthia Pearson, 55, told Jean during a court hearing. ”The only reason I’m getting past this is because before he died, he told me he was happy. I know he died a happy person.”
Jean, himself a father, took responsibility. “I really don’t deserve their forgiveness,” Jean told the family members. “I hope they understand I‘m going to better myself.”
Jean pleaded guilty to a host of charges, including leaving the scene of a fatal accident and vehicular manslaughter.
Young Nicholas Murrell died after being struck on Northwest 29th Avenue at 152nd Ave. Police said Jean was well above the 30-mile-an-hour speed limit when he hit the boy more than five years ago.
Thanks to a tip, detectives found the Camaro, which had been rented by Jean’s girlfriend. It was Jean who drove the car the day of the crash. An eyewitness also identified Jean as the driver. The crash was also captured on video surveillance.
Relatives for Nicholas were too pained to show up in court on Friday. Miami-Dade prosecutor Khalil Madani read a letter from the boy’s father: “The emotional damage is beyond repair. It’s not natural or normal for parents to have to bury their children. “
Said Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Spencer Multack: “It is every parent’s worst nightmare.”
As for Crews, he was an Alabama native who raised his three children in Miami. He was retiree and an avid cyclist. His wife of 50 years had died a few years before he did.
Prosecutors said Jean was driving a 1998 Cadillac Deville at 75 miles per hour in a 40-mile-an-hour zone when the car lifted off the ground. Troopers arrested Jean seven days later, after he awoke at the hospital.
His defense lawyer, Richard Gregg, said his client was not drinking in either case. “Mr. Jean never had any intent of hurting anybody,” he said.