BY CLARA VAUGHN, Eastern Shore Post —
Friends and family donning pale pink T-shirts with the “Justice for Erika” slogan gathered outside the Mary N. Smith Cultural Center on Saturday, June 17.
More than 70 then convoyed on U.S. Route 13 to the site on Nocks Landing Road near Atlantic where a vehicle hit and killed 26-year-old Erika Bailey to hold a vigil in Bailey’s memory.
“We just want to be reminded that it has been 66 days … (with) no arrest, no justice, no peace for Erika,” said Shenia Davis, one of the vigil organizers.
“Sometimes we feel like we’re forgotten and pushed aside, but in this we want to be able to have justice, have our voices heard, and know that we matter to all people,” said Karen Downing, who helped organized the vigil.
Community members are calling for a decision from the Accomack County Commonwealth’s Attorney, who is investigating the case to determine whether the driver will face charges in the incident.
“I’m not saying it’s about a black or white thing. It’s about right and wrong,” said Marvin Giddens, a vigil organizer, in a nod to the racial tensions underlying the case.
Bailey was killed on impact around 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 12, when she and her boyfriend, Duane Lee Turner, 39, were walking with her 6-year-old on Nocks Landing Road and were struck by a vehicle.
Driver Jessica Greenley Waterfield, 36, of Atlantic, was heading east in a sport utility vehicle when the SUV struck them from behind, according to state police reports.
Turner and the child suffered serious injuries and were transported to the hospital, said state police spokesperson Michelle Anaya.
Neither speed nor alcohol were contributing factors in the crash, she said.
“Someone lost their life, people were hurt, and it’s been two months and no charges,” said Willie Justis, a vigil organizer.
“Nothing has happened.”
But Virginia State Police said the investigation is ongoing and operating on a normal timeline.
“This is a normal amount of time for a fatal investigation because our investigation involves other agencies … (that) don’t have time restraints,” Anaya said Tuesday.
In addition to the commonwealth’s attorney, those agencies include the Virginia medical examiner’s office and the Virginia Department of Forensic Science, she said.
“People are unaware of how much detail goes into (investigations) and how much you have to rely on other agencies,” she said.
Accomack Commonwealth’s Attorney Spencer Morgan said in a statement following the incident, his office owes “a duty to all parties involved, and to the community, to ensure that the investigating agency, along with the courts, handle this matter with sensitivity and decorum in the pursuit of justice.”
He did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Post this week.
Since April 12, an online petition advocating bringing charges against the driver has drawn over 3,000 signatures and posts with the “Justice for Erika” hashtag have circulated online.
Community activists and friends of Bailey rallied outside the Accomac courthouse on June 2, anticipating a decision from Morgan about whether Waterfield will face criminal charges.
Downing encouraged attendees at Saturday’s vigil to contact members of the Accomack County Board of Supervisors “to know where the people who represent us stand on issues like this.”
“We need to ask questions. We need to continue to seek justice for Erika,” she said.
Bailey’s boyfriend, Turner, said he hopes the vigil will remind elected officials that the community is waiting for a decision on whether the driver will face charges.
“People walking down the road —you’re not supposed to run into them,” he said. “Right is right. Wrong is wrong.”