A cacophonous boom shattered the calm night air of Jan. 29 at the Downs’ home on Deerfield Drive, startling Heather Downs from the shower and shocking her husband and two children from their television viewing in a nearby bedroom.
Downs at first thought it was some kind of explosion from down the road at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, but the source of the calamity proved to be much closer to home.
Glynn County Police allege that Hank Jason Pelkey drove a 2010 Crown Victoria across the front yard and into the side of the Downs’ home, located in the 200 block of Deerfield Drive, according to a police report. The crash occurred around 10 p.m., the report said.
“My husband was with the kids in our bedroom watching a movie, and I was actually in the shower,” Downs said Tuesday. “The next thing I know I heard what sounded like a bomb had gone off. I didn’t know if FLETC had been bombed. But my husband looked out the window and saw the guy’s car was inside the playroom, just one room over.”
Police arrested Pelkey, 45, and charged him with DUI and failure to maintain a lane. He was taken to the Glynn County Detention Center, where he was released the next day on a total of $1,690 bond, according to jail records.
The vehicle crashed through the front of the house in the playroom for the Downs’ children, a 5-year-old girl and a 2-year-old boy, Downs said. A week after the crash, deep tire tracks remained, running from the side of Deerfield Drive, through a ditch and across the Downs’ front yard to the point of impact on the east end of the home’s front. A large sheet of plastic covered the gaping hole.
After the crash, Pelkey allegedly backed out of the home as Gary Downs called police from inside. When police arrived, the vehicle was stuck in the ditch in front of the home with “the back tires spinning ... as if the driver was attempting to to back out of the the ditch,” officer Matt Dixon wrote in his report.
The damage was extensive, Dixon noted. “From where I was standing I could see part of the front wall of (the home) was missing, leaving a large hole in what appeared to be the living room,” Dixon reported. “A large piece of the wall that was missing from the house was still lying on the hood of Pelkey’s vehicle.”
Dixon said Pelkey smelled of alcohol when he approached him. When asked how much he had to drink, Pelkey allegedly answered, “Too much,” the report said. The officer said Pelkey cried during the interview and said, “I’m sorry,” and, “It’s my fault.” Pelkey lives on Buck Trace in the Deerfield neighborhood, according to jail records.
According to Glynn County court records, Pelkey pleaded guilty after a DUI arrest in May of 2000.
Downs said the home is insured for the damage. Inside the playroom, Down’s antique Kirkman piano was “crushed” during the crash.
A week later, however, she was just thankful that her family escaped unharmed.
“This really could have taken out my whole family,” she said.
Sadly, another alleged DUI incident did end in tragedy earlier this week. Police say a 21-year-old woman struck and killed a teenage boy late Sunday night while driving away from a party in the Lakes subdivision off of U.S. Highway 82. Police say Jacob Butts, 15, a Glynn Academy student, was found dead around dawn the next morning on Lakes Drive near Baumgardner Road.
County police and Georgia State Patrol troopers have charged Madisyn Culpepper with first degree vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of a deadly accident in connection with the teen’s death. Police and state troopers say that moments after striking Butts on Lakes Drive, Culpepper drove through the stop sign at Baumgardner Road and U.S. 82 and collided with a vehicle that was turning onto Baumgardner Road from U.S. 82.
She was arrested in connection with that crash late Sunday night and charged with DUI, running a stop sign and making an improper turn. Butts’ body was not discovered on Lakes Drive until 6:45 a.m. Monday, according to reports.
Culpepper remained Tuesday in the county jail, held without bond on the vehicular homicide charge, according to the sheriff’s office.
Culpepper and Pelkey were among 11 people arrested for DUI in Glynn County within the past week, according to county jail records. Among those was a 30-year-old woman who allegedly passed out after backing into a car on Robarts Road, all while her young child was in the backseat. Police turned the child over to a grandmother and took the woman to jail for DUI/Drugs and DUI/Alcohol, according to jail records.
“The poor decision that someone makes to drive while impaired will not only negatively affect their own lives, but the lives of others,” said Brian Scott, chief of staff of the Glynn County Police Department. “As we saw Sunday night, the consequences can be tragic. There’s Uber and Lyft, which can be added as an app to your phone. You can call a taxi from anywhere. With technology the way it is nowadays, people don’t have any excuse to drive drunk. People simply do not need to get behind the wheel after they’ve been drinking.”