A car crash in January, 2014, left 17-year-old Corey Gentry with serious brain injuries, unable to walk or talk. He's been working towards recovery ever since.
Tabitha Wheeler is the woman who's facing wanton endangerment and assault charges because of the crash. Investigators say Wheeler was driving and Gentry was a passenger. She was arrested in Texas after running from police for six months, and the Gentry family says they have a little more closure now.
When 17-year-old Corey Gentry takes steps forward, his mother, Vanessa, sees them as leaps. Corey's able to give a thumbs-up that he still remembers life before the crash, but he struggles to move and speak. As a mother, Vanessa said she never had to teach her son to have a sense of humor, but she regrets not teaching him the one lesson that could have saved his life: to speak out against what he knew in his gut was wrong the night of the crash.
Vanessa says the arrest doesn't change their life at all, but one comforting thought is that Wheeler won't be able to harm anyone else.
"We don't have choices," Vanessa says. "So we just get up every day and see what we can learn today."
The mother says she doesn't have room to harbor hate for Wheeler, but she does want justice. And she's not the only one. When she asked Corey if he thinks Wheeler should go to jail, he gave a thumbs up.
Vanessa says rehab is still a struggle to go through and afford for her family, but they're grateful for all the help. The community rallied to help provide a wheelchair ramp and make the family's house more accessible.
Investigators say friends may have helped Wheeler while she was on the run. She is charged with crashing a car, leaving Corey with permanent brain injuries.
Wheeler faces four counts of assault, four counts of wanton endangerment and DUI charges in Graves County. She's being held in the Montgomery County jail in Texas until she answers whether she will voluntarily return to Kentucky. The Graves County Sheriff's Office doesn't know how she was on the run for so long. Both the sheriff's office and Kentucky U.S. Marshal's Office are waiting on the U.S. Marshal's Office in Texas to compile its report.
Sheriff Dwayne Redmon says if Wheeler voluntarily returns, he'll send someone immediately to retrieve her. If she doesn't it could take two to three months to get her back to Kentucky to face the charges. Redmon said she changed cell phone numbers a lot while she was on the run and, while there are still a lot of questions about when she returns, it's time she answer for her crimes.
"It was upsetting to the family, as it was to us, to know she was out there running free, partying, doing whatever she wanted to do, and he's confined to a wheelchair and can't do anything," Redmon says.
Wheeler's two children were not with her when she was arrested in Texas. Redmon told Local 6 the children still live in Graves County with family. He expects Wheeler will face additional charges when she returns to Kentucky. Redmon said that without the public's help and collaboration between the media and police, Wheeler may still be on the run.
100 Television Lane
Paducah, KY 42003