Grieving family demands answers after Sullivan woman convicted in Capitol insurrection charged in deadly drunk driving crash

Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 10:31 PM CST
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SULLIVAN, Mo. (KMOV) -- The suffering and sorrow of a grieving family are still so sharp, more than a year after a fatal crash on Interstate 44 in Franklin County.

Vickie Wilson died, and her husband Ryan was severely injured. The woman accused of being drunk behind the wheel is Emily Hernandez. She is most notorious for being at the Capitol insurrection.

“It feels like it’s been a lifetime in this year. I don’t know how I am going to do the rest of my life without her,” said Antoinette Donaldson, Vickie Wilson’s mother.

Thirty-three-year-old Wilson, according to those who loved her, was the center of their family: a friend, a daughter, and a mother.

It was January 5, 2022. Vickie and her husband were out to get dinner. Shortly after 7 p.m. on Highway 44 near St. Clair. The 9-1-1 calls started pouring in.

A truck driver captured video of a car barreling down the interstate, the wrong way. The collision killed Vickie almost instantly and seriously injured Ryan.

“He can’t work, he can’t do nothing,” said Donaldson. “He is still digging glass out of his hand.”

Soon after the crash, News 4 learned, the driver behind the wheel was a name we knew Emily Hernandez. Hernandez was seen in now infamous images and video holding up then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s broken door sign during the Capitol insurrection.

Though she’s never spoken on-camera, her attorney told News 4, she was caught up in the moment.

“She has never had to be held accountable, ever,” said one of Vickie’s family members.

She was out on bond when she caused the fatal crash, though she has since served 30 days in jail for unlawfully entering the Capitol.

“She wasn’t supposed to have criminal activity and she did, but nothing happened to her. That sends a message that she can do what she wants and not be held accountable,” said Donaldson.

Now, they’re frustrated and no closer to justice for Vickie. The case is still pending in Franklin County Court.

“Start sending these criminals to prison, start holding them accountable. Maybe if she knew she was going to get in real trouble, maybe she wouldn’t have put the keys in the ignition that night and drove,” said Angie Ortiz.

“It’s a tragic, tragic loss of life, that was caused by an impaired driving crash that was 100% preventable,” said Jen Wamsganz. She is with Missouri’s Mothers Against Drunk Driving and has been helping to support Vickie’s family.

But she said impaired driving cases, like other prosecutions, often do move slowly.

“Anywhere from one year, two years, sometimes three years, just based on the facts in the case,” said Wamsganz.

Sadly, Vickie’s case is far from the only one. In Missouri, 21% of all fatality crashes are caused by impaired drivers, according to MADD.

In 2021, the last year with data available, 215 people died in impaired driving collisions in Missouri. 275 people also lost their lives in Illinois that year.

“Looking at those numbers it’s a serious concern that people should look at when it comes to impaired driving and roadway safety,” said Wamsganz.

Not wanting her life to be in vain, Vickie’s family told News 4 they want to create a roadway alert system for wrong-way or suspected impaired drivers.

“Amber Alert is geared towards finding missing children, the silver alert is for the elderly, we need something to alert people, motorists there is something going on that stretch of road,” said Ortiz.

They’re hoping lawmakers will listen. In the meantime, they wait, knowing they could run in to Emily Hernandez.

“She runs around in the same town I live in, so I am afraid to go to the store, I am so afraid,” said one of Vickie’s sisters.

Her attorney, Ethan Corlija, declined to talk to News 4 for this story, sending a statement that read: “it would be improper to publicly comment on facts connected to pending legal proceedings.”

“She is out there walking, doing whatever she wants without a care in the world.

Their anger is often overwhelming.

“Everything since then has seemed like a bad nightmare we cannot wake up from.

As they wait for justice, they are holding on tight to her memory.

“She was like an angel before and now she is an angel.”

Vickie’s birthday is Valentine’s Day, and her family is doing a memorial that evening. You can find details here:

6:30 pm on Valentine’s Day Lantern release

Midlawn Funeral Home and Memorial Gardens

7280 Highway 47

Union, MO 63084

Meanwhile, Hernandez is due back in court Tuesday.

Now, we asked the highway patrol about the alert idea. They said that they are looking at all ideas to reduce crashes, assembling an alert would take some time and be a bit challenging and may also cause its own kinds of distractions. But, a spokesperson said they would be willing to talk to Vickie’s family about it.