Beach police admit possible mistake as grieving mother seeks answers in son’s death

Virginia Beach, Va. – A Virginia Beach mother upset that police were not prosecuting a drinking driver asked NewsChannel 3 to find out why no one was held responsible for her son’s death.

Our investigation located online videos showing Chris and his underage friends — including the driver — were drinking a lot that night. And we uncovered how police, in the early part to the investigation, likely made a significant mistake, a mistake that gave the teenage driver a big break.

Diane Pardee’s son, Chris, died on his 21st birthday, about a week after he somehow fell out of a car. Even though the teenage driver had been drinking, a NewsChannel 3 investigation found police gave her only a ticket, failing to arrest her under a special zero-tolerance law targeting underage drinkers who drive.

Court records show a breath test indicated Alexa Liebig was over the 0.02 limit for drivers younger than 21. Police at first said in an email the case “did not reach the elements of DUI.” But when we asked why officers did not use the zero-tolerance law — police refused several times to respond. But on Wednesday, Police Chief James Cervera admitted he is concerned about how officers initially handled the young driver.

“Why didn’t officers charge her right at the scene? That’s what we’re going to find out,” Cervera said.

The chief says he has no tolerance for drinking and driving, and there is an internal investigation underway into whether the first officers mishandled the case.

Chris’ mother welcomes that internal investigation because she has always thought officers didn’t take the case seriously enough. In court, police dropped the alcohol-possession charge, and she didn’t understand why. And she says she’s been confused by conflicting stories about how Chris was hurt, from his friends that night, from police records, from medical reports.

Alexa and passenger Nikki Drew posted on Facebook that Chris fell out of Alexa’s car. A death certificate says Chris was climbing out of a car window to try a stunt called “car surfing.” Medical records say Chris opened the door and fell out. All this happened just blocks from Diane’s home, on a 25-mph residential road near Oceana.

But she’s convinced Chris’ friends aren’t telling her the truth.

“I really just want to know what happened,” Diane said.

She doubts the stories in part because she says the friends with Chris that night haven’t been honest about other things. She said Alexa assured her she was the designated driver and wasn’t drinking. Court records show otherwise. And one of the passengers, a young man named Erin Robertson, is accused of taking advantage of the tragedy and stealing Chris’ expensive Cannon camera. Police charged him with grand larceny. Robertson has a criminal history including convictions for drugs, alcohol and assault.

Police also told Diane none of the people in the car that night would cooperate with the officers’ investigation. And none returned NewsChannel 3′s calls or letters.

Diane had hoped police would bring more serious charges, but that never happened. The driver faced no charges at all until Wednesday. On that day, two months after NewsChannel 3 began investigating, police said they were bringing back the alcohol charge against Alexa.

It’s not what she hoped for, but even the lesser charge even might mean Diane will find out more about that night. And she does accept that the blame for Chris’ death might fall to Chris himself.

“I accept whatever,” she said. “I’m fine with that. Because that was Chris. But I just want to make sure that’s really, really what happened.”

Memorial video courtesy of Adam Parker:

31 comments

  • susan

    Knowing about this accident and the overwhelming loss has been made even more difficult to comprehend by the fact that what really happened has never been explained. The true story behind this tragedy needs to be told. Thank you News Channel 3 for getting involved and helping to make that happen.

    • jake

      definately sounds like he was being drunk and hanging out the window, not her fault, no reason to bring charges on her for his mistake. he was drunk too….. remember that

  • craig

    dude got drunk, was hanging out the window of a car, and fell out. the end. sad story but that’s what happened. and yes i did know him and he was a friend.

  • Brandyn

    Craig,

    Unless you are using a fake name to comment under then you were not there to witness what happened and sound ignorant being so sure of a story that you don’t really have the right to tell.

  • Barbara

    Not knowing how your child died is a burden no parent should face. What lessons have the three others in the car learned from this? Do they sill drink and party? Where is the accountability for irresponsible behavior or doesn’t that exist anymore? A camera being stolen? What else is there to this tragedy? Is the Drew girl any relation to the city’s former sheriff? A young man died. Why did the police give these kids a free pass? What message does that send to those who drink and drive in our city?

  • Jlbkcc

    Isn’t the driver of a vehicle ultimately responsible for the passengers of his or he vehicle? If the under aged driver had hit tree and the passenger died wouldn’t there be charges for involuntary manslaughter? Why should anyone be allowed to break the law and get away with it? Punishment to the wrong will never bring anyone back; however, if justice is given it does have potential to deter others. Wrong is wrong.. As unfortunate as it may be that this young person should face the consequences of that horrific night; she also knew the potential dangers to her poor decisions.

  • Donna again

    I was looking at the Virginia Beach court sites and I don’t see any indication that the charges for the driver that Chief Cervera said would be re-instated, have been. I do see, however, nearly a dozen cases for the rest of the Liebig family. Their lawyer must be making a fortune…

  • Donna again

    I was looking at the Virginia Beach court sites and I don’t
    see any indication that the charges for the driver that
    Chief Cervera said would be re-instated, actually have been.

    I do see, however, nearly a dozen cases for the rest
    of the Liebig family.
    Their lawyer must be making a fortune.

    • Becca Mitchell

      Again, all of your comments are showing up fine. We don’t have a limit on the number of words you can use.

        • Becca Mitchell

          Many comments are being picked up by our Spam filter. We have been having issues with it lately. It is unfortunately out of our control. Please be patient with us while it is being resolved by our corporate team. We have to manually go in and un-mark the mistakenly flagged comments, which can take a while.

        • Becca Mitchell

          Donna – Your comments are being picked up by our Spam filter. We have been having issues with it lately. It is unfortunately out of our control. Please be patient with us while it is being resolved.

  • be fair

    what is wrong with all of you. A young girl is trying to get a drunk boy home safely and he climbs out her window and kills himself. why all the blame on the driver. A .02 is a half a beer. Let’s just put all the kids in VA Beach in jail. I’m not condoning drinking and driving but a half a beer is certainly not drunk. What happened was sad and tragic but totally Chris’s own doing. Now of this will bring him back.

    • Donna

      What you neglect to mention is that this “young girl” Alexandra Liebig, refuses to talk to the police. What is she hiding?

      • jake

        probably nothing… shes a young girl… shes not a money launderer or a secret agent. shes scared… the mother of the stupid kid that was hanging out the window is trying to cost her a fortune and put her in jail. its not going to bring her son back. sorry.

    • JC

      What you neglect to mention is this “young girl” refuses to talk to the police. It is obvious she is hiding something.

  • JC

    I would recommend removing the “Comments” section from this report until it is repaired. It is behaving too erratically.

    • Becca Mitchell

      John – We don’t have that option. The issue is that many of our comments are being flagged by an extremely sensitive Spam filter. Our corporate team is working to resolve it. The flagged comments have to be removed manually, which can take some time on our end. Please be patient with us while the issue is resolved. Thanks.

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