Mobile, AL (WPMI) — Haleigh Lowe pleaded guilty to manslaughter last month. She was behind the wheel admittedly high on drugs when she killed 70-year-old Willie Dixon in 2016. Yet, records show she hasn't even spent an entire hour behind bars. NBC 15's Andrea Ramey is shining a light on her sentence and asking if justice was served.
November 3rd 2016, Willie Dixon's family received the gut-wrenching news. While fixing his truck tire on the side of Highway 43, a car hit Dixon. He was thrown into a ditch and killed instantly.
"It was hard. That was my older brother. We was buddy, buddy. It was hard," said Willie's sister Ethel Hoffman as she fought back tears.
Haleigh Lowe, according to court records, high behind the wheel on inhalants and prescription drugs had killed him. Witnesses say prior to the crash, Lowe was swerving and driving erratically on Highway 43. One witness says as they passed her, they could see Lowe laughing and dancing in the car. That same witness says when she looked back in her rear view mirror, she saw Lowe hit Dixon.
Police arrested Lowe for manslaughter, but 48 minutes after being booked into jail, Lowe bonded out. To this day that remains the only time she's spent in jail for killing Dixon.
"Spend no time in jail? She go home to her parents every night. She go to see her family every night? We have to go to the gravesite to see our uncle," said Dixon's nephew Demetrius McGuire.
Last month, Lowe pled guilty to manslaughter and went before Judge Lockett to learn her fate. The sentence is technically 20 years, but Lowe will likely never come close to serving that much time. It's called a reverse split sentence. Lowe gets to serve five years probation first. If she doesn't mess up again, she can go before a judge in 2024 and request the rest of her sentence, the part where she'd be sent to prison, be postponed indefinitely. Which means Lowe may never spend a single day in prison for killing Dixon.
"I'm not trying to be racist but you let me go out and kill someone and hit a white family member or something, me high on drugs. me messed up on drugs, I guarantee I wouldn't get five years probation. I would've been locked up," said McGuire.
We tried to speak with Lowe about what happened, but she told us no comment.
"Mr. Dixon's death is tragic, but we need not yet throw away another life, too," said Lowe's attorney Dennis Knizley.
Knizely says since the accident Lowe has been in two drug treatment programs. Records show before sentencing she was kicked out of one due to drug use. Knizley argues those demons she's fighting is the precise reason why the sentence Judge Lockett handed down is just.
"Send her to prison and you're going to have a person right back using drugs and a risk to the people on the street," said Knizley. "This way hopefully the two years now and five years probation, we're going to have solved this drug problem and not have another tragic accident."
For Willie Dixon's family, 48 minutes in jail for manslaughter doesn't come anywhere close to justice.
"She getting away on Earth, but she's not getting away with God," said Hoffman.
Judge Lockett also ordered Lowe not to drive for one year and continue her drug treatment program. If she tests positive for drugs, probation will be revoked and she'll go to prison.
Records also show Lowe, if sent to prison, will receive a full day’s credit for the 48 minutes she spent at Mobile Metro Jail.