COBB COUNTY, Ga. - The accused reckless driver who allegedly hit and killed a Cobb County crossing guard pleaded not guilty Thursday morning.
Only Channel 2 Action News was in the courtroom when Lamonte Whitaker, 38, of Lithonia, appeared before a judge.
Whitaker faces reckless driving and vehicular homicide charges in connection with the death of Edna Umeh, according to Cobb County police.
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Umeh, 64, of Austell, was directing traffic outside Lindley Middle School on Veterans Memorial Highway at the time of the deadly crash, which occurred about 9 a.m. Nov. 30.
Students arriving at school saw the accident and its aftermath, district spokesman John Stafford said.
An arrest warrant states Whitaker was driving more than 20 miles over the speed limit.
"I'm very upset that I wasn't able to see his face in court," said Umeh's son, Rahim Tarver.
Channel 2's Chris Jose was the only reporter in the courtroom during today's appearance.
It was the first time the family was able to see Whitaker in person.
"I hope he never gets out of jail because it was murder. It was murder," Tarver said.
Whitaker isn't accused of murder, but a grand jury did indict him with vehicular homicide.
In court, Whitaker didn't say much, but he did respond to the judge's question.
JUDGE: You are formally entering a plea of not guilty. do you understand that?
According to the indictment, Whitaker allegedly drove his car in "reckless disregard for the safety of person and property."
The arrest warrant said Whitaker was more than 20 miles over the speed limit -- 46 in a 25 -- in a designated school zone on Veterans Memorial Highway.
"He knew what he was doing. He did it," Tarver said.
Umeh's son didn't see Whitaker in court on Thursday, but he told Jose he'll be there for his bond hearing.
"You know what you did and I pray that justice is served. And just admit what you've done. A real man would do that," he said.
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