Hit and run suspect's grandmother: Family is 'so sorry this has happened'

GILMER/UPSHUR COUNTY (KYTX) - Justin Echols has been in jail at least twice before, but he's usually posted bond the next day. This time, he needs $250,000 in bond money or he's headed to the place investigators say he ran away from less than a week ago - Smith County.

DPS says last wednesday 30-year-old Justin Lee Echols mishandled a curve on Smith County Road 217 in his Ford F-350 truck and hit a tree. His passenger, Michelle Allen of Harleton, died. But dps says echols took off, first on an ATV he was hauling behind his truck before crashing out again.

About 3 o'clock Monday afternoon, Echols turned himself in to an Upshur County constable and went to jail in Gilmer.

Tuesday, we learned more about the man now facing up to 10 years in prison -- accused of causing an accident that ended the life of a 27-year-old mother of three.

In 2004, Echols was prosecuted in Gregg County for hitting his wife of two years in the head with his hand.

And in 2007, he was at a Longview nightclub when police said he was intoxicated, had a weapon on the premises where alcohol was served, and resisted arrest.

In both cases from 2004 and 2007, the cases were dismissed, both Class A misdemeanors that he could have served a year in jail - the assault, and the resisting arrest. He only pled guilty to the Class C misdemeanor public intoxication charge in '09, and paid a $500 fine.

We called Echols' attorney, Scrappy Holmes, Echols' parents and his in-laws in hopes of talking with his wife of 11 years, but no answers.

Echols' grandmother, Lenelle Echols -- wouldn't talk on camera but said she is so sorry this has happened, and that 'we have no earthly idea' why Justin and Michele were riding together that day. 'We are just as shocked as anyone. We didn't know a thing about any of this.'


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