Crime

Suspect in two N.C. girls’ death in fatal crash remains jailed; community mourns their deaths

Neil DeJean
Neil DeJean

As a North Carolina community mourns the death of two girls killed last week in a crash, a Louisiana man remains jailed in Horry County on two counts of reckless homicide.

Skyler Emore, 9, and her cousin, Dakota Shepherd, 11, both from the Timberlake, N.C., area were pronounced dead from internal injures at the scene of the July 21 crash on U.S. 17 near Pirateland Family Camping Resort, authorities said.

The girls and their family had arrived in the Myrtle Beach area for a vacation just the day before the crash. Officials said they believed the family was turning into a nearby souvenir beachwear store when the crash occurred.

Neil Joesph DeJean, 47, of Duson, La., remains at J. Reuben Long Detention Center without bond on the charges, which also include one count of open alcohol container, according to jail records.

The girls were from a small community located between Roxboro and Durham, N.C., and according to online media reports, a vigil was held Friday evening for the Person County, N.C., community to remember the girls.

Dakota’s parents and her brother were also hurt in the crash when their northbound 2005 Dodge minivan, was struck by a 2013 Mercedes driven south by DeJean, according to S.C. Highway Patrol officials.

According to online records, Dakota was a rising sixth-grader at Southern Middle School in Roxboro and Skyler attended Bethel Hill Charter School.

Family members and friends of the girls could not be reached for comment. In an online forum for Roxboro Courier-Times Fan Site, members of the N.C. community made several posts for the girls’ families.

“Roxboro is a little smaller today, and a whole lot sadder. RIP children, the loss of your young lives affect us all,” wrote Cindy Bules, a day after the crash. Funeral services for the girls were incomplete Monday.

The S.C. Highway Patrol’s Multi-Disciplinary Accident Investigation Team continues to investigate the crash.

The minivan was attempting to turn into a private property parking lot across from the campground entrance when it was struck, said Lance Cpl. Hannah Wimberly with the Highway Patrol. After the Mercedes struck the van, the van then struck a car parked in that parking lot.

A records check with the State Law Enforcement Division showed DeJean has no prior arrests in the state.

But according to Florida records, DeJean was charged June 12 with domestic violence battery, a misdemeanor, in Okaloosa County, which includes the Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Niceville and Santa Rosa Island areas.

According to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s records, DeJean pleaded not guilty to the charge and was released on $1,000 surety bond. The charge is pending.

DeJean, who worked as a directional driller on an fixed platform in the Gulf of Mexico, also settled a federal lawsuit in May 2014 against his former employer after he suffered a fall on the drilling rig, according to the federal lawsuit. It did not disclose details of the settlement, but the suit sought $4.6 million in damages.

In the lawsuit, DeJean suffered a debilitating leg injury that ended his career on the oil platform.

DeJean was also taken to Grand Strand Medical Center for treatment immediately after the crash, officials said. He was taken into police custody when he was released from the hospital.

At the time of the crash, Myrtle Beach police Cpl. J.M. Kerns said another adult and a child, who were also in the Mercedes, were taken to the hospital for treatment. Their information has not been released.

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