Son of woman killed during Nacogdoches street race: ‘Her smile [brightened] up a room’

Son of woman killed during Nacogdoches street race: ‘Her smile [brightened] up a room’
The son of Kerrie Qualls, the Lufkin woman who was hit and killed during a street race in Nacogdoches on New Year’s Eve, said his family is taking their mother’s death day by day and prayer by prayer.

NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - The son of a Lufkin woman who was hit and killed during a street race in Nacogdoches on New Year’s Eve said his family is taking their mother’s death day by day and prayer by prayer.

Kerrie Qualls was standing near the intersection of Crisp Road when police said two drivers raced their vehicles down Park Street. One of the vehicles hit Qualls; she died on impact.

“Right now we’re doing pretty good; still maintaining and taking it day by day,” said Tony Cole, Kerrie’s son. “With prayers and God by our side we’ll definitely get through it.

“I definitely miss my mom. I love her so much. She was my dancing partner, too. I miss her definitely.”

Cole said while his family dealt with their loss, he wouldn’t need to study photos to remind him of the presence his mother commanded when she walked into the room. All he has to do is look in the mirror.

“If you’ve ever seen my mother, you’re looking at me,” Cole said, smiling as he described his mother. “I called her my twin, always. A smile just like my smile. [She was] the life of the party; anytime she walked into a room, her smile [brightened] up a room. An amazing and fantastic person."

The Nacogdoches Police Department has said street racing hasn’t become a widespread problem in the city. However, any report of illegal racing is taken seriously.

“We respond out, and if we don’t find the specific vehicles, we talk to potential witnesses. We follow-up on any leads, and we try to contact whoever it was for the criminal investigation,” said Sgt. Brett Ayres with Nacogdoches Police Department.

The response Ayres described is how investigators came to arrest Christopher Tyrone Session and Jimmy Dewayne Watts. Investigators said both men were racing the night Qualls died, and that it was Watts’ vehicle that hit Qualls.

After speaking to witnesses and following up on leads, investigators determined that Qualls was standing in the street when she was struck by the 2013 Chrysler driven by Watts.

“There are a lot of people who drive our roadways; our neighbors, our friends, our family. Anybody that is a part of the racing is in danger, in addition to everybody who is driving up and down the road,” said Ayres.

In 2008, the Nacogdoches Police Department launched the Traffic Division, a new department to help deal with the number of traffic injuries, accidents, and property damage.

Since 2008, Ayres said there has been a steady decline in the number of collisions in the city.

“Overall, what we’re trying to do is get voluntary compliance to the laws that are enacted so our communities are as safe as possible," Ayres explained.

And a word of advice from the son of a woman killed during an illegal street race: think before you act.

“Please don’t street race. It’s not safe, at all. And it’s illegal -- don’t do it,” Cole added.

Christopher Tyrone Session and Jimmy Dewayne Watts are both in the Nacogdoches County Jail on second-degree felony racing on highway causing serious bodily injury charges.

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