Victim's family sees hope for defendant

Victim's family sees hope for defendant

May 17th, 2011 by Todd South in News

Matt Wood, husband of the late Susan Wood, takes a moment outside the courtroom Monday after the sentencing. Jeremy Lane was sentenced in Judge Don Poole's courtroom Monday. Lane has been convicted in the hit-and-run death of Susan Wood. Staff Photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Matt Wood, husband of the late Susan Wood,...

Minutes after shedding tears and reading emotional testimonies on behalf of their loved one, family members on both sides of a deadly hit-and-run case embraced outside the courtroom.

Matt Wood, husband of Susan Wood, killed by driver Jeremy Allen Lane, hugged Lane's mother, Janice Bond.

On Monday, Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole sentenced the 26-year-old Lane to seven years in prison for his conviction on vehicular homicide and related charges.

Wood, Susan's sister Karen Duncan and mother Charlotte Berry and Bond said that, if anything good could come out of the death of Susan Wood, perhaps Lane could educate others about his mistakes on the morning of Dec. 23, 2009.

Lane has served more than a year awaiting trial and, under sentencing guidelines, will be eligible for parole in about three years.

"I sincerely hope that he has given himself over to the Lord," Wood said after the hearing. "With raising my kids, I just can't think about Mr. Lane right now."

Driving home from work at the Chattanooga Billiard Club early that morning, Lane, while talking on his cell phone, struck Susan Wood at the intersection of Walnut and Fourth streets. He continued driving, hid his damaged car and told police he'd been carjacked.

The 42-year-old mother of two died hours later from massive internal injuries sustained in the collision.

During the sentencing, both Duncan and Berry spoke about their loss.

"You'll never know what a terrible change came into our lives on Dec. 23, 2009," Berry read from the witness stand, choking back tears.

Lane sat shackled in a red jail uniform and occasionally looked up from the table to the witness stand. He bent to wipe away his own tears when his mother took the stand on his behalf.

She testified that Lane had always had impulse control problems but had changed greatly over the course of the trial.

Lane has been in isolation in the Hamilton County Jail after being assaulted by fellow inmates early in his incarceration, she testified.

A father of two, Lane completed his GED and parenting classes while in the jail. Those steps showed a desire to change, Poole commented, but also noted that Lane's concocting an "outlandish" story about being carjacked following the hit-and-run made the event worse from the start.

Prosecutors argued that Lane had not shown remorse or taken responsibility for his actions, although he did plead guilty to filing a false report and leaving the scene of an accident at the outset of the trial. The jury acquitted Lane of DUI, which would have nearly doubled the sentence for the vehicular homicide charge.

Under sentencing guidelines, Lane faced eight years maximum, his attorney Dan Ripper said.

"I really hope that Jeremy is truly committed to making the changes that he started," Ripper said.

Contact staff writer Todd South at or 423-757-6347.