The mother of 22-year-old Megan Dekleinhans sobbed quietly in the courtroom as the Hurley man who killed her said he did not know what he had run over on Lamey Street in North Biloxi.
Markey Johnny Tanner, 26, admitted his guilt Thursday morning to Circuit Court Judge Christopher Schmidt. Yes, Tanner acknowledged, Dekleinhans died because he ran over her while drunk and, yes, he left the scene afterward.
Schmidt released Tanner until sentencing March 20. He faces five to 45 years in jail.
Tanner still has a driver’s license, which was not explained in court, and plans to drive to Louisiana on Friday to pick up the tools from his job there as a pipefitter. Otherwise, Schmidt said Tanner can’t leave Mississippi and must remain in his home between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.
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Megan’s parents, James and Linda Dekleinhans, are beyond distressed that Tanner has been free for two years and 25 days.
“I just want someone to understand, she's not like a candy wrapper to be thrown on the street,” Linda Dekleinhans said. “ . . . I don't know who I am right now. I know I'm a mom but I don't have a child. It's a struggle.”
“No matter where I look, she's there. But she's not there. I miss her. I miss her so much.”
The Dekenlinhanes said Assistant District Attorney Ian Baker has been a big help through their tragedy. He talked to them before and after Tanner’s plea hearing.
Baker recited for the judge what prosecutors could prove in court.
In February 2016, Tanner went to the night Mardi Gras parade in Biloxi with a girlfriend. He drank 14 or 15 Jello shots and more than a six pack of beer before climbing behind the wheel of his Mazda sports car and driving through D’Iberville.
Meanwhile, Megan had a fight with her boyfriend. She left the house and was walking south on Lamey Street. Her boyfriend pulled up in his truck, so she switched directions and headed north.
Tanner’s girlfriend told investigators that he was speeding along Brodie Road. At Lamey Street, he executed a “Tokyo Drift,” a skid turn made famous in the movie series “Fast and Furious.”
He almost hit Megan’s boyfriend before he plowed into her. Tanner’s girlfriend said he slowed down, turned off his lights, then took off again. He said, according to his girlfriend: “She shouldn’t have been in the road.”
Part of the bumper was falling off his car. On the passenger side, the light casing was shattered and the windshield was cracked in a spider web pattern.
Tanner’s right leg shook uncontrollably as he listened to his potential sentence. His description of what happened sounded nothing like Baker’s.
“I heard a noise as I hit something,” he said. “I just kept going instead of stopping to see what I hit.” He thought maybe he had run over a bottle, he said.
The police pulled him over near Edgewater Mall, initially charging him with leaving the scene of an accident.
Megan was pronounced dead that same night at the hospital. Tanner’s blood-alcohol test showed a level of 0.165, while the legal limit is 0.08.
Megan’s parents are inconsolable. They raised her in Gulfport, but retired to Montana before she died. They were hoping she would join them when she finished classes in a few short weeks.
When she died, her mother said, Megan’s 23rd birthday was one week away.
“I got to collect her ashes on her birthday,” she said.