OLATHE, Kan. -- The driver accused of causing a crash that killed an expectant mother in January pleaded guilty in August to reckless second degree murder and aggravated battery and on Monday, Nov. 28, Raphael Sherman, 22, received a 14-year prison sentence.
Denisse Lopez, 25, was 39 weeks pregnant when Sherman ran a red light at 75th and Metcalf on January 10, colliding with the truck she was a passenger in, and a Toyota Sienna minivan. Lopez was thrown from the truck and later died of her injuries; doctors performed emergency surgery to save her baby.
According to court documents, a Prairie Village officer attempted to stop Sherman for a defective tail light at 75th and Lamar before the deadly crash. He didn't stop and continued driving, accelerating near a Price Chopper in the 7000 block of 75th Street, where the Prairie Village officer shut off his light and siren and ended the pursuit before Sherman reached the intersection at Metcalf.
Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe told FOX 4 in an earlier interview that Sherman and others who flee from traffic stops often put others in danger.
“If they did get in trouble by law enforcement they would be minimal misdemeanor type offenses, instead they go ahead and do these high-speed runs and they end up killing someone or maiming these individuals,” Howe said.
Officers discovered that Sherman was driving without a valid license, and they also found a loaded handgun in the Monte Carlo he crashed. Sherman also told emergency responders and investigators that he smoked marijuana in the late morning hours earlier that Sunday.
In addition to Lopez's death, the driver of the truck suffered a lacerated spleen, and a 5-year-old girl in the minivan suffered a broken nose and other facial injuries. Two others in the minivan were treated for minor injuries at a hospital.
FOX 4 spoke with Sherman's sister after he was charged, who said what happened was a tragic accident, and she was mourning for Lopez and her family, and upset for her brother.