A Nolensville man was sentenced to five years years in prison on Friday, nearly one year after a car he was driving struck and killed a Brentwood woman who was cycling on a bike path near Crockett Road.
62-year-old Kelly Duggan died at the scene of the March 25, 2020, crash after a car driven by Noah Higgins left the Eastbound lane of the roadway and struck Duggan who was also travelling Eastbound on a bike path that runs parallel to the roadway.
Higgins was sentenced to serve at 30%, meaning that he could be eligible for parole after one and a half years.
Friday’s nearly four hour hearing included testimony by a Brentwood Police officer as well as testimony by Higgins himself and several victim impact statements from Duggan’s family members.
Higgins admitted to speeding down Crockett Road after clocking out of work. He admitted to driving recklessly before turning onto Crockett Road and then speeding up before failing to negotiate a curve.
Higgins then lost control, overcorrecting and rolled the Silver Nissan Maxima several times before it came to a rest on its hood.
Nissan technicians were able to recover the car’s internal data which records a variety of movements and actions of the vehicle, including the degree of the rotation of the steering wheel and the exact speed of the car five seconds before crashing, with a recorded 87 mph in the 35 mph zone.
Duggan was thrown several feet through the air before landing on a rock wall that lies between the bike path and the front yard of a private home.
Higgins, who was 22 at the time of the crash and will turn 23 on Monday, climbed out of the wreckage, and saw Duggan’s body, noting that she was not breathing, and called 911 to report the crash that saw BPD and Brentwood Fire-Rescue personnel arrive within minutes.
Higgins was the only person in the car and was wearing his seatbelt, and he was not intoxicated.
BPD Officer Brent Phelan testified that Higgins was remorseful at the scene, crying and shaking, and stating that he should have been the one to die, adding that Higgins was both polite and cooperative with investigators.
Police and the prosecutor said that in addition to the reckless speed, the car’s traction control button had been intentionally turned off in what Higgins said was an effort to increase the car’s gas mileage.
When asked by Assistant District Attorney Carlin Hess why Higgins’ would intentionally turn the traction control off, Officer Phelan said that Higgins said that he liked to hear the wheels spin a little, a statement that Phelan said was not a direct quote.
Phelan added that the statement was captured on a BPD patrol vehicle’s dash camera, but that footage was not played or exhibited as evidence in court.
Questions were also raised about Higgins' driving record which included several speeding citations and a single-vehicle crash Higgins was involved in and in which he was never cited or charged.
Prosecutors also questioned Higgins about a modification made to the car’s exhaust to make the car louder.
Higgins said that he didn’t specifically recall his alleged statements to police about enjoying the sound of the modified car, saying that the two factors were to save fuel and in the case of the exhaust had the addition of aesthetics.
Higgins' defense attorney Erik R. Herbert argued that Higgins was a prime candidate for probation and community service, but Judge Deanna B. Johnson ruled that Higgins actions and his history with speeding were specifically relevant to this case, with Johnson ruling that Higgins was driving and had turned off the car’s traction control “for thrill.”
“Typically, the court might not take into consideration a person's speeding records but it is particularly relevant to this case,” Johnson said.
Hess showed a variety of photos and a diagram illustration of the crash that occurred at dusk, as well as a drone video of the scene shot the day after the crash.
Higgins refused medical treatment at the scene from which he was released while the case was handled by the District Attorney’s office. Higgins turned himself in to police in June 2020 after he was charged with vehicular homicide, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment with a vehicle and reckless driving.
Duggan’s step-daughter, older brother and her husband all gave emotional victim impact statements, while a letter from another of Duggan’s brothers was read aloud. All of her families spoke to her kind nature, her list of accomplishments and impact on her family, friends and professional peers, especially noting her success a lawyer and an artist.
Higgins apologized to Duggan’s family, spoke about the crash, his remorse and actions he’s taken since the crash, including volunteering at a hospital and taking a driver’s safety course.
The court was also presented with several character letters written about Higgins by his employer and others in support of Higgins whose mother and father were sitting in the courtroom.
Judge Johnson said the court commended Higgins for taking steps to improve his life, and is giving Higgins up to 30 days to get his affairs in order before he is placed in custody.