VIRGINIA BEACH -- A former reality television show star pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing a Portsmouth man during a drunken, wrong-way crash on Interstate 264 last year.
Melissa Hancock, 25, who was a frequent guest on the Lifetime TV series "Little Women: Atlanta," pleaded guilty to aggravated DUI manslaughter, driving the wrong way and failing to obey a highway sign.
The manslaughter charge requires that she serve at least a year in jail, and allows for up to 20 years in prison and a $2,500 fine. The other two offenses are misdemeanors and do not carry jail time. Sentencing was set for Oct. 10.
Hancock, who was in a wheelchair, left the courtroom in tears. Her mother, who was sitting directly behind her with Hancock's father, also began to cry.
The crash occurred around 2 a.m. Nov. 4, 2017, near the interstate's Birdneck Road interchange. Daniel Dill, 29, a petty officer second class in the Coast Guard, was killed.
Dill had gone out to dinner with his wife, Natalie, and her family earlier that evening to celebrate her birthday. Afterward, he offered to be the designated driver for his wife and her friends so they could enjoy some drinks at the Oceanfront.
He was on his way to pick them up when Hancock crashed her Cadillac head-on into his Mazda sedan.
Natalie Dill's father, Steven Rocha, said after the hearing that the family was relieved they won't have to go through a trial.
"We're trying to work toward forgiveness, but right now we're not even close," Rocha said. "We hope the young lady can get the help she needs, and find some peace and forgiveness in her life."
Dill was wearing a seat belt and had no alcohol or drugs in his system, according to a summary of the evidence submitted by prosecutors. He died the next day from severe blunt force trauma to his neck and torso.
Hancock -- who had just moved to Virginia Beach -- also was injured, suffering three fractures in her back, defense attorney Robert Morecock said. She's undergone two surgeries and is due for one more.
Hancock told a state trooper she had two to four drinks at Peabody's Nightclub before the crash. Her blood alcohol tested at 0.194 an hour later, the evidence summary said. The amount is more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Surveillance cameras from Peabody's and the Oceanfront showed Hancock leaving the nightclub's parking lot and turning the wrong way onto 21st Street, a one-way road that connects to the interstate, the evidence summary said.
A witness told police that Hancock was driving fast before the accident.
The crash data recorder in her car showed that she was traveling 55 to 60 mph before impact.
A state police trooper reported that Hancock smelled of alcohol and had bloodshot, glassy eyes.
After he told her about the severity of Dill's injuries, according to the evidence summary, Hancock responded, "Well, I'm ready to go home."
This article is written by Jane Harper from The Virginian-Pilot and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.