Local/State

New Year's Day hit-and-run driver confesses

Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Joseph Daniel Rechel

Joseph Daniel Rechel (Raleigh Police Department)

Court documents obtained by ABC 11 on Tuesday said Joe Rechel admitted to leaving the scene of an accident that killed 32-year-old Melissa Johnson on New Year's Day.

Officers said Johnson was struck crossing South Saunders Street the evening of Jan. 1, and Rechel fled the scene in a dark-colored, mid-sized pick-up truck.

He was found on Friday, the same day Johnson was laid to rest, when police discovered his Ford Ranger on Leonard Street in Raleigh. They said it appeared to have had recent repairs done to the front end.

Fifty-six-year-old Rechel was charged with felony hit-and-run and appeared before a judge on Monday.

Teri Shaw, Johnson's aunt, confronted Rechel in court.

"I told him I hope he burns in hell," she said.

She said she suspects Rechel had been drinking the night of the accident.

"I'm pretty sure he was drunk," she said. "There was a witness who was at a party with him & said he had been drinking."

Shaw told ABC 11 that she got most of her information from Johnson's family and police.

She said investigators said they focused on Rechel after finding a lead at a local auto body repair shop.

Rechel, who was released on bond Friday night, faces up to five years in prison.

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