Drugs. Burglary. Auto theft. All are considered "non-violent" crimes.
But let a drug deal go bad, and someone gets shot. If the resident is at home during a burglary, it's a home invasion. And if the stolen car is occupied, it's a carjacking.
So what about shoplifting? Swipe a few things, scoot out the door, the only victim is some faceless, corporate store, right?
Tell that to the Turner family.
Lonnie Turner and his mother, Patricia Branton, were both killed this past Sunday when their car was hit by an SUV driven by what investigators say were shoplifters fleeing their latest haul. Turner's wife is being treated at the Medical College of Georgia Hospital, but she lost the baby she was carrying. Their 4-year-old son, thankfully, received only minor injuries, as did a 7-year-old riding in the SUV.
The SUV's driver, Tiara Smith, is charged with killing Turner, Branton and the 19-week-old fetus. She's also facing a laundry list of traffic violations, including running a red light. And she's charged with shoplifting from the Marshalls department store in Mullins Crossing, where it all started.
Actually, it all seems to have started some 12 years ago. That's when Smith's front-seat passenger, first identified after the crash as Nebula McNeely, went to prison for shoplifting.
The community has since learned that "Nebula" is one of nearly two dozen aliases of Denise Yvonne McNeely, who has spent most of the past decade in prison. McNeely, who was treated at MCG and sent to jail, also is charged with shoplifting.
The charge is far from McNeely's first. In fact, she should have been in prison at the time of last Sunday's crash. Instead, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, which routinely releases "non-violent" offenders to keep more prison beds available for violent criminals, released McNeely from jail in May after she served just two years of an eight-year sentence.
This wasn't the first time McNeely got out early. In fact, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections, McNeely repeatedly has broken the law, been sent to prison and then released early, only to commit crimes again and get sent back to prison.
According to Columbia County investigators, McNeely's career of supposedly "non-violent" crimes, and the state's unwillingness to punish her fully, have now resulted in the deaths of three people with help from Smith, the woman deputies believe was McNeely's getaway driver.
There is no hole deep enough for repeat offenders when their sociopathic behavior makes them unfit to inhabit a free society. Sadly, six feet under is as deep as it gets for their victims.
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