Drivers charged in maiming crash

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett County police have filed charges against both drivers in a two-vehicle collision which caused a man's legs to be severed earlier this year.

Kikelomo Conley, 28, faces one misdemeanor count of stopping on the highway for allegedly failing to pull off Interstate 85 North on April 12 after a tire blew out on her 1998 Chevrolet Tahoe. Conley - who was traveling with her fiance, 21-year-old Terrell Batiste, in the HOV lane - said in an interview last month that she was unable to navigate to the righthand shoulder due to heavy traffic. Instead, she pulled over next to the concrete median in the center of the interstate.

Minutes later, a 1990 Honda Civic slammed into the back of the Tahoe, pinning Batiste between the two vehicles as he attempted to change the tire. Both of Batiste's legs were severed in the accident.

The driver of the Civic, 18-year-old Gilberto Serrano, has been charged with driving without a license, said Cpl. Darren Moloney, spokesman for the Gwinnett County Police Department. Serrano refused to meet with investigators to sign the citation, so a warrant has been issued for his arrest on the misdemeanor charge, Moloney said.

Contacted by phone on Tuesday, Batiste said he was disappointed that his girlfriend has been charged and that Serrano didn't face a stiffer penalty.

"I don't see how she was in the wrong," Batiste said. "How could you get over in traffic like that? As for that guy, I don't think just driving without a license was appropriate. He should've been hit with more charges than that."

Batiste is a jazz trumpet player who moved to Duluth in December after evacuating from New Orleans due to Hurricane Katrina. He was hospitalized for almost two months at Gwinnett Medical Center following the accident.

Batiste is still healing from his wounds and visiting the hospital every other day, but he looks forward to a time in the near future when he can be fitted with prosthetic legs and walk again.

"I've been doing great," Batiste said. "I'm just glad to be out of the hospital."