NATCHITOCHES, LA (KSLA) - On the evening of October 4th, 2018, Dion’jhir Moss finished his shift at Wendy’s in Natchitoches, Louisiana and began to walk home.
A 23-year-old man with special needs, Moss loved walking everywhere, and his typical route home from work took him along Highway 6 East toward downtown.
A little more than two miles into the journey, shortly after 10 P.M., Moss was approaching the Natural Springs Garden Center, which sits across the four-lane highway from a State Farm insurance agency. That’s when his uncle Ronald Cross, driving down the highway, saw Moss walking and pulled into the garden center’s parking lot to give him a ride.
But before Ronald Cross could roll down the window and get his nephew’s attention, a car struck Moss, throwing him approximately 25 feet, according to a police report, severely injuring the young man.
“My husband called to tell me what happened,” said Katie Cross, Moss’ aunt. “Katie the car just swept him off his feet. He said it just kept going. No breaking no nothing. It just kept going.”
Prior to calling his wife, Ronald Cross called 9-1-1, pleading for an ambulance.
“I got a hit and run y’all,” Cross is heard saying on a recording of the call. “He’s down here lying down. He’s hemorrhaging real bad.”
With an ambulance on the way, Officer Zack McConnell, with the Natchitoches Police Department arrived on the scene first. According to his report, Moss was lying in the garden center’s driveway. Katie Cross says her husband pulled him there from the highway, fearing he would get hit again.
“His main reaction was to go get him out of the road, because the next two cars that followed, they didn’t stop as well,” said Katie Cross.
McConnell’s report, obtained by KSLA through a public records request, indicates that Ronald Cross gave officers a description of the vehicle that struck Moss and left the scene. After the ambulance left taking Moss to the hospital, and police were collecting evidence in the roadway, according to the report “a vehicle fitting the description that Ronald Cross gave us pulled up to the scene.”
Upon observing damage to the car, investigators determined it was in fact the vehicle that struck Moss. The report identifies a 17-year-old girl as the driver, Alyrica Winder, and that she returned to the scene of the accident, after an unspecified period, with her mother.
The crash report states that the girl was taken to NPD headquarters, read her Miranda rights, then questioned about the accident. She told police that she too had just gotten off work at Wendy’s, was driving past the State Farm building when “something/someone had hit the top of my windshield. I didn’t know what it was,” Winder wrote in her official statement to police.
Winder also told police that she ten continued driving from the scene, pulling over at a Sonic restaurant where she “Face Timed” her mother, Ruth Brown.
Meeting her daughter at the restaurant, the crash report indicates Brown noticed “something fleshy” in the car’s passenger headlight and “hair in the windshield.” At that point, the report says Brown had Winder take her “back to the location where it happened.”
After giving her statement to police, and passing a breathalyzer test, Winder was “released with no citations” according to police records.
That night Moss was airlifted to a Shreveport hospital, where he died the next day surrounded by family.
“I’ve taken care of Dion’jhir for six years,” Katie Cross said. “He’s one of my kids, my Dion’jhir, my person.”
“I feel like I went to sleep,” a grieving Katie Cross said. “In this dream it’s telling me he’s gone but I’m trying to walk and get to the end you know, so that he can meet me and say, ‘Katie I’m right here.’”
Following Dion’jhir’s death, Katie Cross says she spoke with Natchitoches police officials, to find out if the driver of the car that hit and killed Dion’jhir was going to be arrested.
While she says investigators met with her and listened initially, she says in the days and weeks that followed she began to get the impression NPD was protecting the young woman, because her grandfather was a detective with the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office.
“I do, due to her family,” Katie Cross said. “But my family is just family. Their family, from my understanding, you have a detective.”
After speaking with the Cross family, KSLA Investigates sent a copy of the investigative report to Riley Young, he’s a retired Shreveport Police Detective and former police academy instructor, now teaching criminal justice at LSUS.
“A person, walking down the street, that causes their head when you strike them to hit your windshield and leave hair on your windshield, how is that you did not know that was a person,” Young asked when discussing the accident.
While he thinks the investigating officer did some things well, like reading Winder her Miranda and giving her a breathalyzer test, Young says in his opinion, the crash report is incomplete in some critical areas.
The first area he felt the investigating officer failed to explore completely is the question of whether Winder was driving distracted. According to the report, there is no indication that the young driver’s cell phone was examined by officers on the scene of the accident or at the police station.
“Was the driver texting, was she receiving a message or trying to make a phone call,” Young asked? “The officer did not push the driver to determine, were they distracted.”
Young also points out that the driver’s speed was no indicated on the report, a toxicology test was not given.
“I don’t think the officer asked the right type of questions that could have shed a lot of light on what actually happened.”
He also thinks the driver’s actions after the accident indicate she knew she hit a person and not an animal.
“Why did she stop and check, and why did she call her mother” Riley said. “Why were you so concerned if you really didn’t think it was anything? Okay, the car was damaged, nothing you could do about it that night anyway, just go on home.”
While NPD Chief Mickey Dove declined to give an interview and talk about the case, in his letter he said officers did not believe speed or distracted driving were factors in the crash. He also stated that “exercising officer discretion” NPD officials decided not to charge Winder with “Hit and Run.”
Still grieving the loss of her nephew, Katie Cross says her isn’t giving up, praying another like the Natchitoches District Attorney will review the case. She also says her family is filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver’s insurance carrier.