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Arrest doesn't bring joy to accident victim's family

By Ed Brock

After Michael Ronald Hall crashed into a newly purchased dryer that fell off a truck in front of him on I-75 and was killed, Sam Tucker Jr. had the sad task of going through his brother-in-law's crushed vehicle for personal items.

In a briefcase, he found a poem the 43-year-old college assistant dean was writing to his wife, Sabrina Hall, Tucker's sister. It was in the crushed SUV along with his sons' school books and baseball equipment. Tucker said he may have been writing the poem for her birthday in June.

It was entitled "Have You Forgotten."

"In the quiet of the night, do you hear me when I whisper you're my angel? When you close your eyes to rest, is it my face you see," Hall wrote in the poem. "Can you still see my face as I gaze lovingly upon you? When the morning droplets begin to fall from the shower and roll gently upon your skin so soft, do you feel my warm caress?

"As you travel to and fro along your day's journey, does my gentle laughter rejuvenate you? When my name is bantered about in the crowd, do you still smile coyly? Though apart we may sometimes seem, you are always with me. Though walls and miles may separate us, you are with me always. Eternity is forever ? Such is my love for you."

Saturday's arrest in connection with the accident that killed Hall of Atlanta brought no joy to Hall's family.

"We're glad the police did a nice job and somebody's being held responsible, but it's really sad all around," Tucker said.

Clayton County police arrested 25-year-old Jose Luna Gonzales of Hapeville at his home on Friday after determining that he was the man who bought a dryer from Home Depot that fell out of his truck on I-75 and caused the March 8 accident.

Gonzales, who is charged with misdemeanor vehicular homicide and other charges, was still in Clayton County jail as of Monday afternoon.

Hall, on his way home around 10 p.m. from a Little League game in McDonough with his two sons, 9-year-old Michael and 6-year-old Marcus, swerved to avoid the dryer, lost control and flipped his Isuzu Rodeo several times, Clayton County Police Capt. Jeff Turner said.

Hall was killed instantly but the boys survived with minor injuries.

Turner said investigators used information on the side of the box that the dryer was still in to trace its purchase to the Home Depot on Jonesboro Road in Forest Park. A security video from the store showed a man and a young boy buying the dryer and loading it onto a dark-colored Ford F-150 pickup truck, but because the man bought the dryer with cash they did not know his identity.

Then on Friday an employee at the store returned to work after several days off and told police that she remembered Gonzales coming to the store the day after the accident to buy another dryer. The employee said Gonzales told her he'd bought a dryer at the store on the previous day but he had lost it.

Gonzales left a phone number with the clerk that was used to find Gonzales' address. Gonzales told police that he didn't know the dryer had caused an accident and that he had been out of town last week and so didn't know that police were looking for him.

One mystery of how the dryer fell off in the northbound lane south of the Forest Parkway exit was cleared up. Investigators said they determined the driver went to Wal-Mart in Morrow to make a purchase and then got on the interstate near there heading north.

On Saturday, the day after Gonzales' arrest, Tucker's sister Sabrina Tucker Hall buried her husband.

A large crowd of people attended the funeral service at Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, Tucker said.

"I was so broken up I couldn't go in," Tucker said.

Hall had been an assistant dean and director of the MBA program at Clark Atlanta University. Tucker said one student had left a message on an electronic guest book for the funeral in which he talked about how much Hall had helped him.

On Monday Sabrina Hall brought Michael and Marcus back to school for the first time since the accident and Tucker said the teachers and students at the school turned out to show her their support.

Tucker said the family also wanted to thank the Clayton County police and emergency medical personnel who responded to the accident, the media and "all the folks in Georgia who have expressed so much compassion and sympathy."