LEE COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) — A man pled guilty to reckless manslaughter after a 2020 crash in Lee County left one individual dead, according to the Lee County District Attorney’s Office.

In 2020, Opelika police responded to the crash on Interstate 85 near exit 58.

The victim, Thomas Ralston, Jr., was stopped due to an unrelated wreck. While stopped, evidence shows the defendant, Nicholas Palerino, crashed into the rear of Ralston’s Kia Rio at a high speed.

The attorney’s office says this impact led Ralston’s car to strike the rear of another vehicle and flip into the medium.

Photo provided by the Lee County District Attorney’s Office

Ralston was pronounced dead at the scene.

Investigation revealed Palerino was viewing multiple social media apps including Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram before and during the crash, with Palerino’s cell phone data showing the apps were in consistent use for over five minutes until the crash. Along with this, Palerino’s airbag module indicated he was driving at 78 to 79 miles per hour before making impact with Ralston’s car.

We are sorry for the loss suffered by the Ralston family, and we hope this tragedy will serve as a warning about the dangers of distracted driving.  

Lee County District Attorney’s Office

There is no word on Palerino’s sentencing at this time.