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Family of man killed on Boulevard furious after DUI suspect released from jail

Posted at 9:37 PM, Jul 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-08 07:16:45-04

COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. -- The sister of the man hit and killed on the Boulevard in Colonial Heights Saturday night is furious after the driver suspected of driving under the influence was released from jail.

Shelby Harper remembered her brother, Jack Dale Leabhart Jr., as a good man.

“When I woke up this morning, I found all these messages," Harper recounted.

Harper, who has three brothers and a sister, said she learned her brother was dead from another sibling.  While Harper was stunned to learn of the unexpected death, she was floored when her brother told her the man they believe is responsible was walking free.

Jake Dale Leebheart

Jack Dale Leabhart Jr. 

"The person that actually hit him... was released from jail,"  Harper said.  "And so I was kind of surprised and thought. 'How can that be because he was arrested for DUI?'"

Police were called to Boulevard and Birch Avenue around 9:30 p.m. after a driver hit and killed a person on the road.

"The driver of the vehicle, Shane Erick Dent, 34, Midlothian, was taken into custody at the scene of the crash for driving under the influence of alcohol," a Colonial Heights Police spokesperson said. "Dent was processed and released on an unsecured bond, pending his next court appearance."

Police noted additional charges "may be pending."

Shelby Harper

Shelby Harper

After learning of her brother's death, Harper headed to the police station for answers.

"I was told that [the suspect] refused the breathalyzer," Harper explained.  “And so he was issued a warrant for a forced opportunity to take the blood test at the hospital. So he was taken to the hospital and a blood test was performed, but the results aren’t back yet.”

Harper said because there is no “proof” the suspect was driving under the influence, he was released.

“And that was done by the magistrate in Petersburg. So it’s really not a police officer’s fault," Harper said. "I blame the magistrate because he released a man that had just killed my brother.”

Legal analyst Todd Stone believes if vehicular homicide charges are filed that will mean a change regarding bond.

"For a DUI refusal, it's pretty normal for someone to be released the next day, because the purpose of bond isn't to punish someone," Stone explained. "The purpose of bond is to ensure that they come back to court to get out he next day."

That is little comfort to Harper who is still coming to grips with the unexpected loss.

"It really hasn’t completely hit me that I'll never see him again," Harper said showing a collection of family photos to CBS 6 reporter Gabrielle Harmon. "So I can still look at those pictures and have happy thoughts."

In fact, Harper said she had planned to take her brother, who she said had special needs, grocery shopping Sunday.

Harper is hopeful the case brings attention to DUI laws and saves another family added grief.

"This is not about me, this is about a law that needs to be changed," Harper said. "For a person to strike and kill another human being while intoxicated and to be able to walk away and get out of jail. There's something wrong with this picture. It needs to change."

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can submit a news tip here