Friends and family of Leslie Fishel gathered at Sonic on Tenth Street to launch them as a way to remember her 28th birthday and as a way to keep her name in the forefront as they wait for court proceedings in her December 2014 death in a traffic crash.
The man charged in the case, Marquis Whitmore, is currently serving a prison term which has a maximum term of two years and three months for drug charges lodged against him in the summer of 2016.
State Department of Public Safety records show he is eligible for release this coming May.
It remains unclear when Whitmore will appear in court for the charges associated with Fishel’s death.
“I think for my mom, she wants closure,” said Fishel’s sister, Amber Sandeford.
Sandeford misses the talks she had with her sister. “You could just tell her anything. She’s very real.”
Fishel overcame struggles with addiction. “I’m so thankful for that,” her sister said. ‘It gave a chance to mend. She was just so true to who she was.”
What happened the evening of December 20, 2014, at the intersection of Tenth Street and Becker Drive, “It ruins a family,” Sandeford said. “Being five days before Christmas added insult to injury.”
Sonic, the location of the balloon release, was where Fishel worked.
“She was a great employee,” manager Andrea Jordan said. “She went above and beyond.”
Asked about the legacy Fishel left behind, Jordan said, “She just left behind her positive attitude and her positivity.”
Pat Coons, Fishel’s mother, said she is waiting for the closure. “It’s sad her life was taken. She wasn’t able to achieve her dreams.”
Fishel wanted to be the best hair colorist in Roanoke Rapids and worked with her mother.
Asked what they want to see happen when Whitmore’s day in court comes, Butch Coons, Pat’s husband, said, “I want to see him go to prison. He needs to go to prison for what he did to Leslie.”
Pat thanked the group of family and friends for coming. “We love you guys for it. We’re all here because we miss Leslie.”
Ultimately, Sandeford believes Whitmore needs a sentence reflective of the crime he allegedly committed.
What the family is learning from the several crimes Whitmore allegedly committed in the aftermath of Fishel’s death is, “He didn’t learn anything from it. Just everything I’ve heard he has no remorse.”
Whitmore is currently housed in Bertie Correctional Institution where two days ago he turned 29.
A grand jury in March of 2015 determined Whitmore caused her death “while engaging in the offense of impaired driving. The impaired driving was the proximate cause of death.”
The indictment also notes Whitmore had a previous impaired driving conviction within seven years of the December offense, that conviction occurring in Virginia Beach in September of 2010.
A request for a search warrant filed at the time of the crash backs up statements made by Roanoke Rapids police, which say Whitmore was shot in the leg while in the parking lot of an East Tenth Street business. He was treated and released.
Investigator Frankie Griffin's search warrant affidavit says Whitmore then got into a Toyota Avalon to drive himself to the hospital and he approached the intersection of Tenth Street and Becker Drive “in a careless and reckless manner.”
His vehicle went into the path of multiple vehicles, coming to rest on its drivers side.
The document says Whitmore was carried to the hospital and at the time before Fishel's death later that evening, the case was considered an attempted murder.
Whitmore was arrested two days after the indictment on counts of second-degree murder, aggravated felony death by motor vehicle, five counts of assault with a deadly weapon and five counts of reckless driving to endanger.