The mood was filled with joy as Mashayla Harper celebrated the upcoming birth of her daughter at a baby shower held in her honor. But just minutes later, Harper's unborn baby would be dead and she would be lying on the roadway fighting for her life.
Harper’s car was struck head-on in a hit-and-run, allegedly by a driver with a history of impaired driving, who fled the scene on foot after the devastating crash, The Sun Herald reports.
Harper, a teacher in Mississippi, had been driving home from the shower when the crash occurred.
“To see our baby go from this being the happiest day if her life to I.C.U. in a matter of minutes was a complete tragedy,” her father Maurice Pruitt Sr. wrote on Facebook after the accident. “That idiot hit her head on and left her out there on that road to die.”
A hunter found Harper bleeding and injured laying along the road and called 911. But it was too late to save her unborn daughter, who was going to be named Londyn Alise Jones, her father told The Sun Herald.
Sgt. J.D. Carter of the Jones County Sheriff’s Department told The Laurel Leader Call that they identified the driver of the 2005 Nissan Titan that struck Harper’s Honda Accord as James Cory Gilbert, 33.
Investigators discovered a small amount of marijuana in Gilbert’s abandoned vehicle and he later allegedly admitted to drinking alcohol prior to the crash, Carter said.
Joe Berlin, the newly elected sheriff, called Gilbert’s wife and asked her to reach out to her husband to encourage him to “do the right thing” and turn himself in.
“I’m glad he came clean about it,” Carter said.
Gilbert is now facing charges of leaving the scene of an accident that caused death or injuries. The charges against him could be changed depending on the results of Gilbert’s blood test, authorities said.
Gilbert, who has a prior history of impaired driving, told The Laurel Leader Call he fled the scene Saturday evening because he was afraid.
“I was scared,” he told a reporter. “I’m very sorry. I’m so sorry.”
Gilbert, who has two daughters, has had at least three DUI convictions going back to 2008. In 2015, he was convicted of felony DUI and possession of methamphetamine, Carter said at Gilbert’s initial appearance in court, according to The Laurel Leader Call.
He bond was set at $100,000.
Harper suffered extensive injuries during the crash including a broken leg, damage to her abdomen and head trauma.
She is continuing to recover at an area hospital—although her father said she is devastated by the loss of what would have been her first child.
“They are through with all her surgeries,” Pruitt told the Sun Herald. “Everything is fine. She is awake. She knows that her baby died. She is really sad. She doesn’t want anyone to leave her right now. They are allowing her mother to stay with her.”
Her boyfriend has also been spending time with her at the hospital, according to the local paper.
In the weeks before the tragic crash, Harper, a fourth grade teacher at South Jones Elementary School, had been busy preparing the nursery for her daughter.
Her family now plans to put all the baby items—including those she had gotten that day at the shower—away in case she has another baby one day.
“Thanks to everyone that's praying and has called to check on the status of Mashayla Harper,” her father said in his Facebook message. “She's a very strong woman and she continue to fight for her life.”
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