NORFOLK, Va. – Tahlia Courtney Ricks, a 22-year-old Norfolk woman, was sentenced in Norfolk Circuit Court on Friday, April 1, 2022, to eight years in prison for killing Jendaya Hunter, 25, and Sateya Baker, 20, in a drunk driving crash just south of the Granby Street Bridge in the early morning hours following Jendaya Hunter’s 25th birthday.
Around 1:53 a.m. on May 2, 2021, Ms. Ricks was driving down Granby Street in her 2014 Nissan Altima with her friends Ms. Baker, Ms. Hunter, and Ms. Hunter’s younger sister Jaspreet Hunter. Ms. Ricks and her three passengers had been out celebrating Ms. Hunter’s 25th birthday. Ms. Ricks had drunk roughly a half a bottle of rum and had taken vodka shots over the course of the night. Ms. Ricks was under the influence and over the legal limit to drive.
According to Jaspreet Hunter, Ms. Ricks had been swerving and driving too fast. Both Jaspreet Hunter and Jendaya Hunter asked Ms. Ricks to slow down, and Jendaya Hunter offered to drive in Ms. Ricks’ place. Ms. Ricks refused the offer, saying, “No, I got it. I’m good. I’m not that drunk.” When Ms. Ricks refused to let someone else drive, Jaspreet Hunter said she felt unsafe and attempted to put her seat belt on.
Moments later, Ms. Ricks sped through the construction zone on the Granby Street Bridge at over 50 miles per hour, well over the 25-mile-per-hour speed limit. Ms. Ricks lost control of the car, hit a curb, ran over the sidewalk, and hit a Dominion Energy utility pole head-on at the junction of Granby Street and Llewelyn Avenue. The force of the collision snapped the utility pole and spun the car around to face oncoming traffic.
Jendaya Hunter and Ms. Baker, both backseat passengers, were transported to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and died of blunt force trauma. Neither were wearing seat belts. Ms. Ricks and Jaspreet Hunter, riding in the front passenger seat, were injured in the crash. Jaspreet Hunter’s foot is still in a walking boot, and she remains unable to work because of her injuries.
Norfolk Police officers responding to the crash smelled alcohol coming from Ms. Ricks, but she claimed to have had only one margarita two hours before the crash and that she did not think her ability to drive was impaired. Ms. Ricks failed her sobriety tests and was arrested for driving under the influence. Ms. Ricks’ breath alcohol test confirmed she had a blood-alcohol concentration of .12, well over the legal limit of .08. The crash data recorder in her car confirmed that, five seconds before impact, she had been traveling at 58 miles per hour. Officers also found several open containers of alcohol in the car.
Ms. Ricks pleaded guilty on Dec. 8, 2021, to three crimes arising from her actions last May: One felony count of aggravated involuntary manslaughter, one count of involuntary manslaughter and one count of misdemeanor driving under the influence of alcohol.
On Friday, Judge Jerrauld C. Jones sentenced Ms. Ricks to a total active sentence of eight years in prison, imposing 12 years with six years suspended for the charge of aggravated involuntary manslaughter, six years with four years suspended for the charge of involuntary manslaughter, and 12 months with 12 months suspended for the charge of driving under the influence. Ms. Ricks’ sentence is conditioned upon 10 years of uniform good behavior and indeterminate supervised probation.
“Ms. Ricks’ bad choices have cost two young women their lives, left another young woman gravely injured, and broken the hearts of victims in two families,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Ramin Fatehi. “In a world full of taxis, rideshares, and designated drivers, Ms. Ricks could have avoided committing this crime. Let Ms. Ricks’ convictions serve as a reminder to everyone that, if you choose to drink, do not drive, because by the time you sober up and realize that you have killed someone, it is too late.”
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Graham M. Stolle prosecuted the case on behalf of the Commonwealth. Please contact Nia Tariq at 757-620-5454 for more information.
Correction: For the charge of aggravated involuntary manslaughter, Ms. Ricks was sentenced to 12 years, not eight as originally published, with six years suspended.