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Manuel Sierra-Ortega

A 28-year-old man from Rocky Face, Georgia, has been charged with second-degree vehicular homicide after he hit a pedestrian with his car in November 2020.

The person he hit — 41-year-old Gina Marie Lamons of Chatsworth — died on Nov. 23 after being airlifted to Erlanger hospital.

The incident happened Nov. 17 at the intersection of Grimes Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Dalton just after 11 a.m. The Dalton Police Department responded to the area where Manuel Sierra-Ortega was standing on the sidewalk near a black 2020 Ford Mustang while Lamons was being tended to by emergency medical personnel.

According to a police incident report, Sierra-Ortega told officers that he thought he had the green light, was making a left-hand turn on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and did not see a pedestrian.

Sierra-Ortega also told police he tried to get out of the car after hitting Lamons but didn't immediately put his car in park. Officers reported they detected the odor of marijuana as they questioned Sierra-Ortega. The man told police he hadn't smoked marijuana "for about a week" but said there were small traces of marijuana in the car.

The responding officer gave Sierra-Ortega three field sobriety tests but eventually let him go because he didn't seem to be under the influence.

Sierra-Ortega's Mustang was towed to an impound lot and later searched by police after a warrant was granted. The search found a marijuana "blunt" in the car as well as a vacuum-sealed bag with marijuana, a digital scale, a glass container with "budder" (a marijuana extract), a Thermos with more marijuana and two boxes that had been shipped from California to Sierra-Ortega that smelled like marijuana.

After the Mustang search, a warrant was put out for Sierra-Ortega's arrest on drug possession charges and with the intent to deliver drugs on Jan. 26.

Three months later, a Whitfield County Sheriff's Office deputy pulled Sierra-Ortega over for speeding, this time while he was driving a white Chevy Camaro. The deputy smelled marijuana and asked if there was any in the car. Sierra-Ortega handed over a grinder and scale and later admitted there was a half ounce of marijuana in the trunk and a small plastic bag of methamphetamine in his front pocket.

Through both agencies, Sierra-Ortega is being charged with second-degree vehicular homicide — a misdemeanor — a violation of pedestrians having the right of way in a crosswalk, possession of marijuana, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, two counts of possession of methamphetamine, two counts of possession and use of drug-related objects and two counts of possession of tools for the commission of a crime.

Sierra-Ortega was released from the Whitfield County Jail on Monday on a $25,000 bond.

Contact Patrick Filbin at pfilbin@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.

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