The day had been about celebrating Mashayla Harper and the unborn child she was expected to deliver within weeks. But that expectation was dashed by the day's end. Harper was driving home from her Mississippi baby shower around 6pm Saturday when she was struck head-on by a hit-and-run driver, the Jones County Sheriff's Department tells People. Found lying on a road in Soso, the 24-year-old elementary school teacher who was 36 weeks pregnant was rushed to a hospital, where she learned her unborn daughter hadn't survived, per the Sun Herald. Meanwhile, authorities searched for 33-year-old James Gilbert, accused of fleeing the scene on foot; he was ultimately located with help from his wife. Police say he admitted to drinking alcohol before the crash.
Gilbert, who faces charges including DUI and leaving the scene of an accident causing death, has at least three prior DUI convictions and is also a suspect in a 2018 hit-and-run death, per the Laurel Leader-Call. "This one is more egregious because the suspect knew he struck someone and caused life-threatening injuries," Jones County Justice Court Judge Billie Graham said during a Monday court appearance, where bond was set at $100,000. Asked why he ran, Gilbert told the outlet, "I was scared ... I'm so sorry." In a Facebook post, Harper's father wrote that to see his daughter go from "the happiest day of her life to ICU in a matter of minutes was a complete tragedy." She has been upgraded from critical to stable condition following surgery. (Read more hit and run stories.)