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Dryer accident suspect bonds out

By Ed Brock

The Hapeville man charged with vehicular homicide in connection with a fatal accident caused by a dryer dropped in the middle of I-75 is out of jail.

Jose Luna Gonzales, 25, was released on $9,000 bond Wednesday and, according to his attorney, is very sorry about the accident in which 43-year-old Michael Hall of Atlanta was killed on March 8 when he swerved to avoid the dryer Gonzales had bought that same day.

"Of course he's sorry. Someone died," said attorney Lee Sexton. "What people have to understand is that this is not a crime, this is an accident. An accident is a statutory defense in Georgia."

Gonzales went to the Home Depot on Jonesboro Road in Forest Park to buy the dryer, made a stop at the Wal-Mart down the road in Morrow and then got on I-75 heading north, Clayton County Police Capt. Jeff Turner said.

Sexton said Gonzales stopped when he noticed the dryer had fallen out of the truck and backed up on the shoulder of the interstate to try to find it. He never saw it and was afraid to remain on the side of the road looking for the dryer as traffic raced past him.

"He had his little child with him," Sexton said.

Sexton also said a Home Depot employee helped Gonzales put the dryer into his Ford F-150 pickup and "never suggested tying it down." Sexton said the dryer was not tied down but the truck's tailgate was up.

Home Depot spokesman Don Harrison said the company was deferring all comment to police and said they are cooperating fully with the police investigation.

Turner said Gonzales told a detective that he had tied the dryer down and a security video from the Home Depot does show somebody helping Gonzales put the dryer in the truck but doesn't show the person helping to secure the load.

Failure to secure a load is one of the other charges against Gonzales. Sexton said that a third charge, violating restrictions on Gonzales' driver's license, was a mistake and would probably be taken off. The restrictions, which limited Gonzales to driving for school, medical and business reasons only, had been imposed because he had too many points on his license from speeding, Sexton said, but were removed two or three days before the accident.

All the charges are misdemeanors and Clayton County Solicitor General Keith Martin said May 3 has been set as the trial date in the case.

Hall, an assistant dean at Clark Atlanta University, was on his way home from a Little League game in McDonough with his two sons, 9-year-old Michael and 6-year-old Marcus, when the accident occurred. The boys suffered minor injuries.