By Venita Fritz
Tribune-Courier General Manager
The man charged with DUI manslaughter in the Thanksgiving Day crash that killed a young Marshall County mother is now behind bars in Williamson County, Ill., facing a new set of charges including felony escape.
Marshall County District Judge Jack Telle had granted Jeffrey Nelson, 48, of Murray a three-day release from jail to attend his mother’s funeral in Reynolds Georgia on Dec. 5. Under the conditions of the release, Nelson was ordered to wear an ankle monitor and was driven to Georgia by a co-worker at his place of employment.
He was to have made the return trip from Macon, Georgia to Paducah on board a Greyhound bus on Friday, Dec. 6. Upon arrival, he was to be picked up and immediately returned to the Marshall County Detention Center at around 10:30 p.m.
Instead, Nelson remained on the bus until he reached the Marion, Ill. terminal. Once in Marion, police say he stole a car at the Pilot station and began the next leg of his getaway. When Williamson County, Ill. deputies caught up with Nelson he was driving in the wrong direction on the interstate. He was taken into custody and charged with felony theft of a motor vehicle and driving under the influence.
Sheriff Kevin Byars said he is currently awaiting Nelson’s return to Marshall County, where he will have felony escape charges added to his offenses.
Byars said it is his understanding Williamson County officials have agreed to dismiss the auto theft charges to help expedite his return to Marshall County to stand trial on the more serious charge of DUI manslaughter in the death of 23 year-old Megean McCoy. Byars is unsure, however, how long that may take.
Nelson was being held on a $100,000 cash bond for the accident that claimed the life of McCoy early Thanksgiving morning on U.S. Hwy 80 near Aurora. McCoy was traveling westbound when she was struck by Nelson, who was driving in the wrong lane.
McCoy was the mother of two young daughters, ages 18 months and 3 years. She was on her way to work at the Draffenville McDonald’s when the accident occurred.
McCoy’s mother, Angie Sharp, and other family members were in Marshall County District Court last week for Nelson’s scheduled appearance on the DUI manslaughter charge. After waiting nearly an hour and a half while the court handled other cases, they were told of his escape by assistant county attorney Jason Darnell.
“We didn’t know he was going to be released and I was surprised that he was let go due to the severity of the crime,” said Sharp. “But after I thought about it, maybe it was for the best because maybe now he won’t be released from jail for a long time and have the chance to do this to anyone else,” said Sharp.
Sharp said her grandchildren are being cared for by McCoy’s husband and grandparents and they are trying to make the Christmas season as normal as possible for them.
“They got to do Shop with a Cop (on Friday) and it was a good day for them,” said Sharp.
An account has been established in McCoy’s name at CFSB. Donations may be made at any branch of the bank.