'He would stop for anybody': Asheville family mourns loss of man killed on Sweeten Creek

ASHEVILLE — The evening a driver struck and killed Jason Matthew Perry while he was helping an injured motorcyclist along Sweeten Creek Road on Oct. 18 was far from the first time Perry stopped his car in aid of a stranger.

According to his family, the 46-year-old was characterized by a kindness that drove him to help others in need, whether a downed motorcyclist or a driver who hit a guardrail.

“I talked with many of his friends and coworkers after his death who said that’s who Jason was ― he would stop for anybody, to help them,” his mother, Jeanne Perry, told the Citizen Times, referencing many times when Jason got out of his car to help someone on the street.

Jason Matthew Perry sits with his former dog, a woolly Siberian named Bell. Perry was struck by a tow truck while helping an injured motorcyclist on Oct. 18, 2023.
Jason Matthew Perry sits with his former dog, a woolly Siberian named Bell. Perry was struck by a tow truck while helping an injured motorcyclist on Oct. 18, 2023.

Now, Bernie Chan Rogers, 27, of Asheville, faces a misdemeanor death by vehicle charge after allegedly striking Perry and the injured motorist's motorcycle while traveling northbound in a tow truck on Sweeten Creek Road Oct. 18. This is the second time in less than a year that Rogers has been arrested for killing a pedestrian behind the wheel.

That evening, Perry had watched his 13-year-old son, Ryan, earn fourth place in a cross-country race at Asheville Middle School, despite finishing the race half barefoot after losing a shoe along the way.

Previous reporting: Man charged with Sweeten Creek pedestrian death. He was accused of the same crime last year

“Jason was showing everybody, texting everybody a picture of his shoe missing,” his mom said.

After the game, the family went home to eat lasagna together before Perry decided it was time for him to head back home to Hiddenite in Alexander County, according to Jeanne Perry. She made him a cup of coffee before he left, said goodbye and went upstairs.

“I remember looking out the window and watching him back out, not knowing five minutes later, he’d be dead,” said Perry, who lives a mile from where the accident happened.

Jason was a man of many trades, having stints in electrical work, stucco work, carpentry, construction and even working as an inspector for OSHA. He grew up in Kennebunkport, Maine, a town of 3,000 people, which Perry called “Hallmark, USA.” Perry thinks this is where her son’s kind nature first began to grow.

“Everyone knew each other, and everybody helped each other,” Perry said. “He learned his kindness through his father and I, but also through all the neighbors and the way they lived there.”

A mother with no answers in son's death

Following an investigation into the accident, Rogers was arrested by the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office nine days after Perry’s death and charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle and failing to reduce his speed on Oct. 27, according to a news release. The charges were brought forth after an investigation by the Asheville Police Department, along with consultation with the Buncombe County District Attorney's Office, spokesperson Samantha Booth previously told the Citizen Times.

The pedestrian, Perry, was "assisting a motorcyclist who had laid his motorcycle down in the turning lane," according to the accident report obtained by the Citizen Times. Perry was standing "a short distance in the northbound left travel lane," the report says.

The diagram depicts the accident on Sweeten Creek Road on Oct. 18, 2023, where a tow truck driver allegedly struck and killed a pedestrian who was helping an injured motorcyclist.
The diagram depicts the accident on Sweeten Creek Road on Oct. 18, 2023, where a tow truck driver allegedly struck and killed a pedestrian who was helping an injured motorcyclist.

Perry died instantly from multiple blunt force injuries after being struck by a tow truck, according to his death certificate. His mother said she’s struggled to get a police report about the incident, and even asked a police officer on duty about what they saw that night.

“No matter how I asked it, I was not going to get an answer,” Perry said. “So, here’s a mother that has no answers and no closure.”

Rogers was being held in the Haywood County Detention Facility under a $20,000 secured bond, but has since been released from custody, according to spokesperson Gina Zachary of the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office.

Initial reporting: Man struck and killed while helping motorcyclist on Sweeten Creek Road

The 27-year-old previously turned himself into police on Nov. 22, 2022, 11 days after allegedly striking and killing Jason Dean Wyatt while he was biking on the eastbound side of Patton Avenue near the I-240 interchange.

The Citizen Times reached out to Wyatt’s family, who were unavailable before press time.

Rogers was charged with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle, failure to reduce speed and driving with a revoked license, according to a police news release at the time. This case is still pending in Buncombe County court.

More: Asheville police ID, charge man in fatal Patton Avenue cyclist collision

Regarding how long it takes for these cases to go through the court system, Roger’s attorney for the 2022 accident, James Mills, said he’s seen them vary from a few months to a few years.

“Sometimes due process for lots of reasons just takes a little bit of time to get there,” Mills told the Citizen Times. “With these cases, there’s a lot going on. Not only do we have the tragedy itself, they also just take longer to investigate, to do the reports. … There’s a lot of things going on to come to a just and fair resolution, recognizing and being sympathetic and empathetic to all parties.”

Mills said his client is “devastated” and “terribly saddened about what happened,” but declined comment on behalf of Rogers while the case is ongoing, saying any comments would more appropriately be made directly to the victim’s families.

“My client is absolutely traumatized himself for the accidents,” Mills said.  “He’s hurting just as I’m sure the family is also stunned and shocked and hurting.”

Rogers’ next court dates are Dec. 14 for the 2022 death by vehicle and Feb. 20 for the October death by vehicle.

Perry’s mother said they “have strong faith” and trust that Jason is in a better place, having risked his life for another person.

“One of the things that Jesus took the time to tell us is that any man who lays down his life for another man gets the highest honor,” Perry said. “That’s what makes him the hero.”

Pedestrian death: Pedestrian killed on I-240 near Haywood Road in Asheville; APD investigating collision

Ryley Ober is the Public Safety Reporter for Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. Email her at rober@gannett.com and follow her on Twitter @ryleyober

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: NC father killed by tow truck in Asheville remembered for kindness