DUI death led to creation of ‘Nathan’s Law’
The man who struck and killed a kindergarten student as he stepped off a school bus in front of his house is being released from prison this month, according to notifications sent out by the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
Dominic Gebben, 31, has served eight years of a 22-year manslaughter conviction and will be on “early release supervision” in George County effective April 16, according to MDOC.
Gebben was driving a Nissan Pathfinder on Dec. 11, 2009 when he went around the bus, then struck and ran over 5-year-old Nathan Key on Houston Road and fled the scene.
“If anyone you know lives in George County and their children ride school buses please tell them to watch their children,” Nathan’s mother Lori McJohnson posted on Facebook. “He illegally passed my son’s school bus and killed him!!!!!!!”
She was in traffic near the home when it happened, and his young siblings Lewis and Tessa — then 11 and 9, respectively — witnessed it, along with all of the young North Jones Elementary students on the bus.
Nathan’s parents, Andy Key and McJohnson, turned their grief into a mission to promote school-bus safety and pushed for the passage of Nathan’s Law, which enhanced penalties for motorists who pass stopped school buses.
Gov. Phil Bryant credited state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville) for working to draft and pass Nathan’s Law.
“I remember the pain and anguish as she was clinging to that backpack,” then-Lt. Gov. Bryant said at the time, recalling seeing Nathan’s mother at the Capitol weeks after the tragedy. “I knew something had to be done to make sure that his death was not in vain.”
The young boy’s name also lives on with the Nathan Key Legacy Foundation, which raised money to put security cameras in buses in Jones County and elsewhere.
Gebben first claimed that his brakes failed, but that was disputed by several witnesses who saw him stop behind the bus at a home about 50 yards before Nathan’s home, and he was stopped behind the bus before wheeling out and running over the child, then fleeing the scene.
In June 2012, a Jones County jury found Gebben guilty of culpable negligence manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident. Then-Judge Billy Joe Landrum sentenced him to the maximum — 20 years on the manslaughter and two years for leaving the scene.