Stopped at a traffic light in the District on March 2, two people looked over into the Mercury Mountaineer nearby and saw driver Leroy Eley nodding off.
They called out to Eley, suggesting he pull over. But Eley kept driving.
Yesterday, Eley pleaded guilty to racing through the next intersection at Maryland Avenue and H Street NE and slamming into Anacostia Senior High School basketball player Kelli Bradford as she moved through the crosswalk. Bradford died two days after the crash.
On the eve of his trial, Eley pleaded guilty to a charge of voluntary manslaughter, admitting that he was driving while drunk. D.C. Superior Court Judge Ann O'Regan Keary could sentence him to as many as 30 years behind bars on Aug. 27.
Bradford was a 16-year-old junior guard on the Anacostia team, which dedicated its 71-46 playoff victory over Coolidge to her the day she died. She never regained consciousness after Eley hit her with his borrowed 1997 sport-utility vehicle.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Teresa A. Howie told Keary that Eley, 33, was badly inebriated on March 2 when police arrived at the scene of the collision. At a bail hearing in March, a Superior Court judge said Eley appeared "out-of-control drunk."
Eley's "speech was slurred, his eyes were watery, he urinated on himself and he was verbally abusive," Howie said. He yelled obscenities and refused to take a breath test. At D.C. General Hospital, he refused to submit blood or urine samples.
At the time of the crash, Eley was free while awaiting trial on a Maryland drunken-driving charge. Howie said Eley was convicted in 1995 of driving under the influence and has six speeding violations since 1986. He was driving on an expired D.C. license when he struck Bradford.
Eley, who lived in the 600 block of Constitution Avenue NE, has been in custody since his March arrest. In return for his guilty plea, prosecutors dropped a more serious charge of second-degree murder in the case.
CAPTION: A basketball player's warm-up jersey was inscribed with a biblical citation and a thought for teammate Kelli Bradford as the Anacostia Senior High girls' team prepared for its first game after Bradford was run over by a drunken driver.
CAPTION: Kelli Bradford, 16, was a junior at Anacostia when Leroy Eley's vehicle struck and fatally injured her.