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Driver in death of Ala. EMT had prior DUI arrests

Michael Ladell Thomas faces manslaughter, felony DUI for a crash that killed ASAP EMS EMT Mary “Katie” Pipkin

By Warren Kulo

MOBILE, Ala. — The suspect in a crash that killed a 30-year-old EMT had been arrested for DUI on four other occasions dating back to 2010, according to Mobile jail records.

Michael Ladell Thomas is charged with manslaughter and felony DUI after police say the vehicle he was operating while impaired struck and killed the ambulance medic and injured another woman.

Mobile police said the incident began about 6:45 p.m. Saturday when a vehicle crashed into the rear of another vehicle towing a utility trailer on Moffett Road near Shelton Beach Road.

The ambulance medic, identified as Mary “Katie” Pipkins of Leakesville, Miss., was aboard an ASAP Ambulance from Mississippi which was returning from another medical call when it stopped to offer assistance to those involved in the two-vehicle crash.

Pipkins and a female driver of one of the vehicles in the crash were struck by Thomas’ vehicle, police said. Pipkins was pronounced dead at the scene, while the other woman was taken to a local hospital for treatment of what were described as non-life-threatening injuries.

Mobile officers at the scene said Thomas exhibited signs of impairment at the scene.

Thomas’ prior arrests for DUI include an October 2020 arrest which included leaving the scene of an accident. While information on the outcome of those DUI cases was not immediately available, it is known that in 2011 Thomas was sentenced to 20 years, with 15 years suspended, for robbing a man a gunpoint, according to court records.

In 2019, he spent a year in prison for robbery and possession of a controlled substance.

Pipkins was a native of Leakesville who graduated from Greene County High School and had attended Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, according to her Facebook profile. She had also worked for Greene County Hospital.

Family and friends took to social media to remember the young medic.

“She loved hard and would do all that she could do to help anyone,” wrote Pipkins’ sister, Cassie Pipkins Stinson. “She had the most beautiful smile and an infectious laugh. I never could be serious around her we were always giggling. But my giggling stopped on 12/30/2023 when a man who had no right to be free made the choice and got behind the wheel and killed my sister while she was doing what she loved and was helping someone.”

Co-worker Matt Amick, a former fire chief for the City of Lucedale, Miss., remembered Pipkins as a cherished friend, adding that he called her “Martha” just for fun.

“Her bubbly personality & smile was infectious,” Amick wrote. “God blessed me by sending the friend I needed. ‘Martha’ was one of my truest confidants, as well as my partner in crime for stirring the proverbial pot to lessen the monotony of long shifts.

“No matter how I felt, no matter how much I wanted to be anti-social, ‘Martha’ was always a shining star in my life. Her smile brightened my day without fail. The days will be a little darker without ‘Martha’ to brighten them. Rest easy. I love you & will miss my friend.”

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