CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – She was a mother of four when her life came to an end, but it’s what happened just six months before her death that has her mother questioning the way DUIs are handled in Tennessee.
Two years after Michelle Shade’s death, a man pleaded guilty to killing her while drinking and driving. However, it wouldn’t be his first DUI charge.
Michelle Shade Lazu
You’ll find more crosses at a church, but between the grass and past the cars, you’ll find a prayer for change along the 41A Bypass in Clarksville.
“She was my best friend,” said Ann Lazu-Crider. “She has four children – three boys and a girl. When she passed, they were all under the age of nine.”
Lazu-Crider will quickly admit she and her daughter grew up together. Lazu-Crider had Shade when she was just 17 years old, but would go on to be the mom Lazu-Crider is today.
“She was doing what every single mom does, which is trying to make life better for her kids,” Lazu-Crider said. “She just brightened up everybody’s day and she was a go-getter.”
Lazu-Crider keeps the memory of her daughter close to her heart.
“She was wearing that the day of the accident,” Lazu-Crider said as she held her necklace. “I literally had to clean blood off it.”
She is reminded of that, March 15, 2021, every time she holds it.
“The last conversation I had with her was me calling her and asking her, ‘So what time are you going to pick your sisters up from work?’ I told her I loved her. She told me she loved me,” Lazu-Crider said, holding back tears.
Shade, who was just 28 years old, was driving along the busy 41A Bypass in Clarksville when the crash happened; police responded to the five-car pile-up.
“I remember hearing helicopters above my apartment,” Lazu-Crider said as tears flowed down her face. “I just prayed to God that nothing had happened to my baby, but unfortunately by the time I got to the hospital, she was already gone. That was that day, and my life literally stopped that day. My heart stopped; everything stopped that day.”
Lazu-Crider explained things are just now starting to get better.
“They say soulmates…you think of a soulmate, you think of a man and woman. No one talked about your kids,” Lazu-Crider said. “She was my better half, she was someone who showed me that I was doing right. I was doing good.”
The mother of four is now gone, taken in a way Lazu-Crider believes was preventable.
Police arrested Dylan Grady after investigators said he caused the crash. Inside his car, they claim to have found an open bottle of alcohol. Montgomery County records would show he was booked into jail and bonded out the same day.
“I don’t think it’s fair that he’s walking and my baby’s not, and he’s done all these things and he gets to do whatever he wants to now,” said Lazu-Crider before Grady’s case went before the court shortly after her interview with News 2.
Last month, the case finally went before a judge. Two years after the incident, Grady pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide. He was sentenced to 12 years behind bars, losing his license for 10 years.
However, a deeper look into Grady’s criminal history would reveal this wasn’t his first time drinking and driving.
Just six months before the Clarksville crash, Grady appeared in front of a Davidson County Judge for a DUI offense. He would be released on bond.
It was during that time when Shade’s crash happened. So, why wasn’t this case flagged before Shade’s death?
“We look at every case that we’re assigned as being extremely important, and that’s from the least serious to the most serious case that you can imagine, and we consider DUI prosecution to be very serious,” said Matthew Gilbert, who works as a vehicular crimes team leader with the Davidson County District Attorney’s Office.
Gilbert explained cases like this come with their challenges, especially when they are given a case that, on the surface, looks like a first-time offender.
“If someone’s never been in trouble before and if the case doesn’t signal what I’ll call an aggravating factor – there’s not excessive speed; there’s not excessive intoxication – in some of those cases, what we’ll do is we’ll cut someone a bit of a break and allow them to plead guilty to reckless endangerment or reckless driving,” he explained.
It’s difficult to explain what specifically happened in Shade’s case, especially because Grady’s crime happened in two different counties.
The Davidson County District Attorney’s Office explained there is no state-wide notification system in place that alerts the court if a crime is committed in another jurisdiction while someone is out on bond.
However, since Shade’s case, they have taken a closer look and changed their policy to ensure each case is looked at before it goes to court in the chance that another crime has happened.