‘Every day is a battle’: Survivor of double fatal Shelton DUI crash still trying to recover

Photo of Ethan Fry

SHELTON — Meghan Nealy doesn’t remember much from the day of a February 2020 drunken driving crash that left her paralyzed and killed two other passengers of a car she was in.

But she knows it “started off full of love and joy.”

Nealy and 31-year-old Adrian Joshua Miles had spent the previous night at Miles’ family’s home with their 3-year-old daughter Aliyah before deciding to have a big breakfast with relatives the next morning.

“Everyone came in waves and it was a little dysfunctional, but it was great to be around family,” Nealy said. “Then I remember Josh bringing me to work. And then nothing.”

The crash later that night on River Road killed Miles and Lily Pirulli, the girlfriend of Miles’ best friend, Rakiem Reid, who was behind the wheel.

A judge on Monday sentenced Reid to serve 12 years in prison in accordance with a plea deal in the case.

“I think he deserves a whole lot more,” Nealy said during an interview at her home in Shelton. “Just because of how the law is, they can’t give him more. What he did was just so unforgivable.”

While she said she doesn’t remember the night of the crash clearly, she said she vaguely recalls Reid approaching her afterward on the side of the road. During Reid’s sentencing, she said she didn’t know whether the memory was real or a dream.

“I believe he came up to me and I told him I couldn’t feel my legs. I’m sure he saw me and he thought ‘Hmm, she’s probably not going to make it,’” Nealy said. “Then all of a sudden he disappears when he’s the one to blame.”

Reid — whose blood alcohol level was more than one and a half times the legal limit, in contrast to his passengers, whose medical records would show they were below — told police he had pulled over to let Nealy drive the car.

But investigators trying to re-trace their steps would determine that would have been impossible.

Earlier, the couples had been at Bull and Barley before a brief stop at Center Street Social, where surveillance footage depicted Reid in the driver’s seat of his BMW just three minutes before he crashed into another vehicle miles away on River Road, after which the car jumped a guardrail and hit several trees before rolling over.

By the time a detective obtained an arrest warrant charging him, Reid was in North Carolina, where he initially gave a fake name and date of birth when tracked down by police.

Nealy said she and her family learned of the arrest on Aliyah’s fourth birthday, which she had to celebrate with her daughter remotely.

For months following the crash, she was treated for her devastating injuries at St. Vincent’s Medical Center, Hartford Hospital and the Hospital for Special Care while in the early stages of the COVID pandemic, which delayed Nealy’s reunion with Aliyah for months.

A gofundme raised about $18,000, which helped in the immediate aftermath of the crash, but long-term care, housing, and getting places is expensive, Nealy said. Another fundraiser to raise money for transportation is underway.

“Every day is a battle,” she said, describing scars from the crash and subsequent surgeries that serve as “a constant reminder of what happened that night.”

Nealy said she goes to physical therapy twice a week and also sees a psychiatrist regularly. She shares a two-bedroom, accessible apartment with her mother.

It’s difficult raising a young child while dealing with mobility issues from her injuries, she said.

“I try my best to be there for her but with her father not being here, I feel like I have to step up more and it’s hard because I can’t do that,” Nealy said. “I have to kind of be both Mom and Dad and I can barely be Mom.

“It’s just something I have to deal with every day,” she said. “And I just wish I could take it back, take everything back that night.”

While she appreciates having survived the crash, she said she struggles to find words for the guilt she feels for Pirulli and Miles.

Pictures of both hang in the bedroom she shares with her daughter, who has a pillow with pictures of her father and a sweatshirt she cuddles with when she gets sad.

A “World’s best Daddy” bracelet she gave Miles for Father’s Day never leaves Nealy’s wrist.

“I just don’t get it,” Nealy said, recalling her relationship with Miles, who she was with for almost five years before a brief split in 2018 and a reunion early in 2020.

“We just started over,” Nealy said. “We planned on growing our family. I didn’t get the opportunity. I had a month with him.”

She said she doesn’t know whether she’ll be able to forgive Reid, who tearfully apologized during his sentencing and said he knew he deserved to be in jail.

She held out the possibility that she might one day reach out to him — to ask a question.

“Maybe one day I’ll be able to ask him why,” Nealy said. “Why did you choose this instead of doing the right thing?”