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Effective Friday, the State of Nebraska has suspended its inmate driver program. The decision comes three days after an inmate was involved in a crash that killed another driver.
According to a news release, Department of Correctional Services Staff will be used to transport inmates affected by this change, while a "careful and thorough review" of the program is conducted.
Thursday evening, friends and family gathered at 18th and Van Dorn to remember 47-year-old Joyce Meeks. She was killed in a crash Tuesday evening, just two blocks from her home, when her car was hit by an inmate driving a state corrections van. Witnesses said the inmate was driving erratically just prior to the crash.
The inmate, Jeremy Dobbe, is in prison for the second time on drug charges, with at least three DUI arrests on his record. He had been driving other work release inmates to and from their jobs since April. According to officials, Jeremy Dobbe had passed previous urine tests and had a valid driver's license.
Meeks' friend, Valerie Patten of Lincoln said, "Why did they let him behind the wheel knowing his history?"
Meeks' son, Martell Buchanan, also questions the state's driving program. He said, "How's he out of jail? Maybe he's on work release, but don't they give drug and alcohol test. I was just flabbergasted by the whole thing."
The 47-year-old nurse is survived by her husband, Leonard, three children and ten grandchildren.
Leonard Meeks described his wife as the sweetest woman. He told Channel 6 News he was on his way home Tuesday night and saw the crash scene. It wasn't until he got home and realized Joyce wasn't there, that he knew she had been involved.
Meeks said, "I walked down the street. Got close enough to where I could see the license plate on the car. I knew what happened from there."
Four of the couple's grandkids, ages five to eleven, live with them. Meeks said he will continue raising the children without his wife. "I guess trying to carry on what she started and give them what I can and carry on," said Meeks.
According to officials, six vans with inmates driving had run at various times, unsupervised in Lincoln. Three others operate out of Omaha. Again, that program has now been suspended.
Dobbe remains in the hospital. Blood test results to see if he was impaired, in any way, at the time of the crash have not come back yet.
Lancaster Chief Deputy County Attorney tells Channel Six News that the accident reconstruction team is still working on its report. He expects charges will be filed sometime next week.