Woman who died in pond after crash pled guilty to charges in deadly crash

By Marisela Burgos - bio | email

HENRYVILLE, IN (WAVE) - A southern Indiana mother who investigators said saved her son after their car went into a pond had pleaded guilty earlier in the week on charges in a criminal case.

Clark County Sheriff Danny Rodden said 35-year-old Jennifer Just died after her car went into a pond along Pixley Knob Road in Henryville around 11:30 p.m. on Oct 7. Rodden said Just's son was sleeping in the car when it submerged.

"She woke him up and told him they were under water," said Rodden.

According to Rodden, the 8-year-old told investigators his mom used a metal object, believed to be a shower curtain rod, used to break a back window. Rodden said both Just and her son made it out of the car, but just never made it out of the pond. The boy then walked to a nearby home to get help. Shannon Lyons was sleeping inside when she was awakened.

"All of a sudden I heard the kids just come running through my door. The older kids {said} mom there's a little boy out there and he says they went into the pond and he barely got out, but his mom is still in the pond," Lyons remembered.

Lyons said the boy was wet and he was not wearing shoes.

'I just said, 'where is your mom?' and he said, 'she's still in the pond. Please go help her,'" said Lyons, whose son called 911.

911 Dispatcher: "911, What's your emergency?"

Caller: "There's been ...I think it's a wreck...I don't know, this little boy come up here and said his mom crashed into the water."

Dispatcher: "Are you going down there?"

Caller: "Yeah were getting ready to go down there right now. This little kid just came up here."

Caller: "The little boy got out of the car and he swam and he ran all the way down here and he said his mom is still in the car."

Dispatcher: "He got out of the car and swam in the pond and came to your house correct?"

Caller: Yes.

After calling emergency crews, Lyons and her family immediately drove down the steep and dark hill to the pond to try to help.

"We put the headlights down where they can look into the pond and we couldn't see anything," Lyons said. "We saw a piece of the car under water that was sitting on the grass."

But what led up to that point is what investigators are trying to figure out. Rodden said Just and her son were on their way home to Borden from Lexington after visiting a relative. However, in an investigative report obtained by WAVE 3, an investigator questioned why Just took a longer route to get home.

"The route that was chosen was a very inadequate and a lengthy detoured way of traveling to her residence," the report read.

The report continued to say that Just's husband told a medical worker at the hospital that she was going through "rough times."

The investigation revealed Just appeared in court Oct. 5 on a criminal case in Scott County in which she pled guilty to two counts of reckless homicide in the deaths of James and Thelma Jewell. That accident happened in December on I-65 in Scottsburg. According to court records, police believe Just had recently smoked marijuana and was on prescription drugs at the time oft eh accident. Investigators also believe Just was sending text messages and had made several calls from a cell phone around the time the accident happened.

Just had a sentencing hearing set in the Scott County case for October 28. Prosecutor Jason Mount said the court could have sentenced Just up to eight years in prison and suspended her license for two years. Mount said that sentence would have been based on her driving history and not on the incident because it was her first offense. Because of her death, Mount says the Scott County case will be dismissed.

While the accident is still under investigation, Rodden said at this time it is believed to be an accidental drowning. Rodden says there have been a couple of accidents in that same area, but they are trying to determine what caused Just to drive off the road into the pond.

After being called to the accident scene, several rescue teams searched for the car and Just with no luck. Lyons said she wishes she could have done more.

"I wish I could have done something more for her, but it's just... How scared did he have to be to come out of a dark pond and then walk all the way up the woods and all the way up here," said Lyons.

According to Lyons, one of the officers who responded tried to use a rope to go into the pond and search for Just, but didn't find the vehicle.

Rodden said the rescue teams first found the car, but Just was not inside. Divers from the Indiana State Police found her body about 10 feet from the car.

"I can't imagine going thru that as an adult much less an 8-year-old boy, said Rodden, thinking about the boy who lost his mother. "I can't imagine what he's feeling."

We contacted the Just family. A person who identified himself as a nephew stressed the crash was an accident.

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