Crime

He lost his license after 3 DWIs, drove drunk again, and killed the mother of his child.

Vehicles at the merge of southbound Interstate 85 and N.C. 147, the Durham Freeway, were among the hundreds caught up Tuesday afternoon and evening after a fatal crash in Orange County forced authorities to shut down I-85.
Vehicles at the merge of southbound Interstate 85 and N.C. 147, the Durham Freeway, were among the hundreds caught up Tuesday afternoon and evening after a fatal crash in Orange County forced authorities to shut down I-85.

A man with a history of drinking and driving will serve 16 years to 20 years for killing the mother of his child when he drove into the back of a tractor-trailer on Interstate 85.

Robert Jason Mace, 41, of Graham, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the Sept. 13, 2016, death of Lisa Nicole Parker, 35, of Mebane. He also pleaded guilty to felony death by motor vehicle, driving while impaired, causing serious injury by motor vehicle and driving while his license was permanently revoked.

Mace could have faced over 65 years in prison for all five charges.

He will be formally sentenced in October for second-degree murder, causing serious injury and having a revoked license. His driving while impaired and felony death charges will be set aside, because they were used as justification for the murder conviction, defense attorney Don Dickerson said.

Robert Mace
Robert Mace

He will be credited for roughly 15 months served in the Orange County jail and will remain free on bail until the sentencing. If he commits another crime before then the deal is off.

Orange County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman said blood alcohol tests showed Mace had a level of 0.12 — the state’s limit for legal impairment is 0.08 — after the wreck. Mace also had cocaine and marijuana in his system, Nieman said.

Although his license was permanently revoked in 2001, after his third DWI conviction, Nieman said Mace had since racked up 11 charges of driving while his license was revoked.

Mace was texting the night of Sept. 12 with Parker, who had moved to Petersburg, Virginia., with their son to get a fresh start, Nieman said. Evidence shows Mace was drinking and using other substances that night, he said.

The next morning, he drove to Petersburg, arriving around 1 p.m., Nieman said. Mace visited with his son for a few minutes at a gas station, since the family Parker was staying with didn’t want him at the home, he said.

Parker joined Mace for the drive back to Orange County, Nieman said. Witnesses later reported that Mace’s van was acting erratic after he passed the state line on I-85, weaving in and out of traffic at 85 to 90 miles per hour, and passing on the shoulder of the interstate and between lanes, he said.

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Mace was attempting to pass a tractor-trailer truck on the interstate’s shoulder, just north of Hillsborough, when he wrecked, Nieman said. As Mace went around the truck on the right, he found another tractor-trailer truck broken down on the shoulder.

“He whipped the car back, attempting to get back in the lane. Unfortunately, he did so sufficiently to save his own life but not that of Ms. Parker, who was in the passenger side of the car,” Nieman said. “The car was essentially sheered from front to back, almost like a can opener.”

Parker was killed instantly, he said. The van then clipped a Toyota pickup truck, flipping it over. That driver kicked out the windshield to get out, but suffered “pretty serious neurological damage” and still struggles with speech, memory and vision, Nieman said.

The wreck shut down southbound traffic between the last exit in Durham County and N.C. 86 for several hours.

Mace admitted he had been driving and drinking after the wreck, Nieman said.

“I’m not going to say he didn’t show some remorse and sadness,” Nieman said. “I would say that interviews showed that on at least six different occasions ... there were many more statements about his concern about whether or not he was going to get in trouble, than statements about the well-being of Ms. Parker or (the pickup truck’s driver).”

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926; @TammyGrubb
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