On June 16, 2000, a trip from their home in Woodstock to visit family changed everything for Billy and Kathy Inman, when they stopped at a red light in Ellijay and a car barreled into them from behind, killing 16-year-old Dustin, their only child.
On top of the loss of their son, the Inmans have also lived with the fact that, for nearly as long as Dustin was alive, authorities have not been able to find the man accused of causing the wreck, Mexican national Gonzalez Gonzalo Harrell, now 46.
Their dreams of seeing Harrell tried in the case were renewed in late March, when the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Atlanta office issued a news release asking for help in tracking down Harrell, who allegedly fled after the wreck.
“There’s nothing I can do to get my life back like it was — nothing. But if I had him found, it’d just help me turn the page over this. It feels like he’s a noose over my neck,” Billy Inman said Monday. “If I knew where he was at, he’d be found and held accountable. It just ain’t right. I’m tired of this.”
According to the FBI, Harrell was taken to a nearby hospital after the wreck, along with Kathy Inman, who received critical injuries that left her disabled. “The speedometer of Harrell’s vehicle was later found to be fixed at approximately 62 miles per hour,” the release said.
Harrell was indicted in 2001 on charges including homicide by vehicle in the first degree and reckless driving in Gilmer County. and he is wanted on a federal fugitive charge from 2002, according to the FBI.
The FBI said Crime Stoppers Atlanta is offering a reward of up to $2,000 for information in the case and asked anyone with information to call CSA at (404) 577-8477. Harrell is five feet eight inches and is believed to weigh 150 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes.
Billy Inman said he contacted CSA about a month ago and asked for help finding justice for his son.
The group’s entrance into the case put it in a long line of agencies working to find the suspect. Through the years, the Ellijay Police Department, the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the FBI and others have been involved in the case, Billy Inman said.
“My hat is just off to them, knowing what they have to put up with on a daily basis,” the father said of all the authorities who have helped with the case. “They are excellent people. I’ve got the upmost respect. I think the world of them.”
Billy Inman, who speaks with love and heartache of his late son, has also spent years trying to track down Harrell on his own. He has been known to place enlarged pictures of Harrell’s face in the windows of his car and truck, with text explaining the case.
He said he still asks around for Harrell.
“I wouldn’t even be scared to say he’s still in Ellijay,” he said.
For the Inmans, one of the most disturbing factors in the case is that Harrell was believed to be in the United States illegally, Billy Inman says.
Since 2000, the family has become active in the movement for immigration reform and hope for more rigid policies to keep out those who come into the United States illegally. An immigration reform advocacy group also has been started in Dustin’s name, the Dustin Inman Society, founded by Cobb County immigration activist and columnist D.A. King.
The Inmans feel that Harrell’s status as a non-U.S. citizen has made efforts to find him more difficult because there are fewer records of his life.
As the search continues, the Inmans have taken what small comfort they can in the memories Dustin left.
In the living room of their home on Treasure Way in Woodstock, dozens of pictures of their son hang on the walls chronicling his brief life spent hunting and fishing and spending time with friends and family.
The Inmans have also vowed to leave Dustin’s room as it was when he was alive. In a June 2013 interview with the Tribune, Billy Inman stood talking of his son in the room, with its posters of childhood icons and still-packaged action figures.
After all these years, holding onto the memories and searching for justice have worn down the family, and Billy Inman says he still can’t believe so much time has passed.
“It’s been 14 years come Father’s Day,” he said this week. “You say ‘14 years,’ that sounds like a long time, which it is a long time. But it sure don’t seem it.”