NORFOLK, Va. – Alexis Whitehead, a 25-year-old Navy Sailor stationed in Norfolk, was sentenced Friday to 12 years in prison for racing under the influence with another vehicle at more than 130 miles per hour and crashing in a residential area off Hampton Boulevard, causing the death of her 23-year-old friend and passenger Nitanjae Terry.
The night of Sept. 5, 2021, Ms. Whitehead and a group of friends were hanging out in the crowded parking lot of a Norfolk hookah lounge off Hampton Boulevard. Ms. Whitehead had been with the group of friends and had been drinking alcohol in the preceding hours. Many people were standing around talking and listening to music in the parking lot. Another person in the parking lot revved the engine of his car, prompting a woman in Ms. Whitehead’s group to yell to that person, “You want to race?” Around the same time, a patron exiting the hookah lounge shared the address of a nearby house party with Ms. Whitehead. Ms. Whitehead, accompanied by her four friends including Ms. Terry, got into Ms. Whitehead’s Infiniti to head to the party.
A caravan of vehicles began heading southbound on Hampton Boulevard in the direction of the bridge that crosses the Lafayette River. Ms. Whitehead began racing with another car, passing other vehicles in the caravan at an extremely high rate of speed while crossing the bridge. One of Ms. Whitehead’s friends yelled for Ms. Whitehead to slow down. Ms. Whitehead did not respond and never slowed the vehicle.
Ms. Whitehead lost control of her car and overcorrected at a bend in the road near the intersection of Hampton Boulevard and Manchester Avenue, hitting a curb and going airborne. Ms. Whitehead’s car crossed the opposing lanes of traffic, knocked down a tree, and snapped a utility pole into three pieces before finally coming to a stop nearly three blocks from the initial point of contact at the intersection of Hampton Boulevard and Surrey Crescent. A large portion of the tree impaled the side of a Chrysler minivan traveling southbound in the right lane on Hampton Boulevard, and flying debris from the Infiniti damaged the fencing and third-story window of a nearby home as well as the windshield of another vehicle in the caravan. The Event Data Recorder from Ms. Whitehead’s Infiniti recorded the vehicle’s highest speed at 132 miles per hour seconds before impact with the tree and, at the time of impact, Ms. Whitehead had still been accelerating.
Due to the force of the crash, all of Ms. Whitehead’s passengers were thrown around inside the car and ended up in the back seat. Ms. Terry was partially ejected through a rear window. Other passengers were able to exit on their own or with the help of bystanders. Moments after the crash, the car caught fire and bystanders put out the fire with an extinguisher from a nearby house. Ms. Whitehead told paramedics she had been drinking earlier in the day, and paramedics could smell alcohol on her breath. Her blood alcohol level was later determined to be .159.
All five of the car’s occupants were transported to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital with injuries ranging from minor to life-threatening. One passenger sustained head trauma, a knee injury, and a broken front tooth. Another sustained several broken ribs, a lacerated spleen, a collapsed lung, a broken ankle, and several broken teeth. Ms. Terry suffered the most serious injuries and died after arriving at the hospital.
On Sept. 8, 2022, Ms. Whitehead pleaded guilty to aggravated involuntary vehicular manslaughter, causing the death of another by racing, two counts of driving while intoxicated with reckless disregard resulting in serious injury, and driving while intoxicated.
On Friday, Judge Scott sentenced Ms. Whitehead to serve 12 active years in prison. The details of Ms. Whitehead’s sentence included 10 years, with six years suspended, for manslaughter; 10 years, with six suspended, for causing the death of another by racing; five years, with three suspended, on two counts of DUI causing significant and permanent injury; and 12 months, with 11 months suspended, for DUI. Ms. Whitehead’s suspended sentences are conditioned upon indeterminate supervised probation and Ms. Whitehead’s engaging in outreach and education about the dangers of racing and impaired driving.
"Driving drunk and at triple-digit speeds is extremely dangerous, and we are lucky that more people did not die in this crime, including motorists in other cars and residents in the houses around the crash scene," said Commonwealth’s Attorney Ramin Fatehi. "Think before you drink. Don’t drive drunk. If you kill someone while behind the wheel, we will hold you accountable."
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorneys Graham M. Stolle and Melinda Seemar prosecuted Ms. Whitehead’s case on behalf of the Commonwealth.