North Little Rock woman receives 6-year sentence in hit-and-run death of highway worker

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A 39-year-old North Little Rock woman linked to the death of a state Department of Transportation worker in a construction zone was sentenced to six years in prison on Friday for the hit-and-run collision.

Crystal C. Johnson, who had never been in serious trouble with the law before, had pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident involving death, a Class B felony, in exchange for the six-year term imposed on Friday by Circuit Judge Karen Whatley. The charge is a Class B felony that carries up to 20 years in prison.

Under the conditions of her plea agreement, negotiated by deputy prosecutor Justin Brown and defense attorney Catherine Crawford, Class D felony charges of filing a false report with law enforcement and evidence tampering were dropped.

Johnson was arrested by State Police eight days after 69-year-old Winfred Terrell Perry of Bauxite was hit by a sport utility vehicle on Jan. 18, 2022, on Interstate 30 near Scott Hamilton Drive in Little Rock. The 25-year veteran of the department had been putting up a road closure sign on the highway.

The State Police said he was struck by the SUV while crossing the westbound lanes of traffic about three hours after sunset. Coworkers saw the SUV hit Petty, a married father of six, and performed first aid. He was taken to the hospital by helicopter but died before arriving.

His death came about a month after another department employee, 28-year-old Kurt Jonathan Cottier of Russellville, died from his injuries 11 days after being hit by a car while working in an Interstate 40 construction zone in Conway County. Cottier had only been with the agency for about three months. State Police identified the driver of the car that struck Cottier, and determined the collision was caused by "inattentive, careless, negligent or erratic" driving but no felony charges were filed.

The men's deaths were the catalyst for a statewide campaign to draw the attention of drivers to the dangers faced by transportation workers in construction zones.