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Polk County DA: No criminal charges in Selma Pierce’s death

The car crash killed the prominent community activist and philanthropist. Husband Bud Pierce called it "a perfect tragedy."

SALEM, Ore. — Selma Pierce and her son Michael were out for an evening walk in early December less than a half mile from her west Salem home when she entered Doaks Ferry Road to cross the street.  

The sun had set on the chilly day, with a temperature around 42 degrees as the pair walked out of their neighborhood toward a road that leads to Highway 22 from the steep hills of west Salem.

It was a walk Pierce had done hundreds of times. The section of road has a wide shoulder with a sidewalk that abruptly ends on Doakes Ferry Road. There’s no crosswalk, so the only way to cross is by walking across two lanes of traffic separated by a double yellow line. 

Before Michael Pierce had time to say anything, his mother was hit by a southbound white Chevrolet Suburban traveling at 40 mph.

Those are the findings of the Polk County District Attorney’s review of the case provided to Salem Reporter, which found there was no evidence to justify criminal charges against the driver.  

RELATED: Selma Pierce, Salem community leader and wife of 2016 governor nominee Bud Pierce, dies

David Holmes was driving uphill on that Tuesday when he saw something suddenly appear in the road, he told Salem police investigators. His 23-year-old daughter shrieked when she saw Pierce step into the road, but she told police there wasn’t time to say anything to get her father to stop.

Holmes thought it could have been a deer, but his daughter told him it was a person. She called 911.  

Neighbors who lived near the intersection walked Michael Pierce back to their home.  

Selma Pierce’s husband, Bud Pierce, told Salem Reporter the accident was a “perfect tragedy of driver not seeing Selma and Selma not seeing the driver."

Pierce’s death shocked and saddened the Salem community. The retired Salem dentist leaves behind a legacy of community involvement and philanthropy.  

Pierce was known for her involvement in charitable activities, and was a key organizer for Oregon Mission of Mercy, which offered free dental care clinics to needy people.

She was on the board of directors of the Chemeketa Community College Foundation, the Inspire Foundation, the Salem Leadership Foundation and the Marion-Polk Dental Society. She also ran twice unsuccessfully for the Oregon House.

“I just think she impacted a lot of people in a positive way,” Bud Pierce said.

Her legacy will live on. In December, United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley established “The Selma Pierce Fund” to distribute money to the neediest members of the community.

“Selma devoted her life in service to others and embodied the belief that dedication to improve the quality of life of every individual plays a central role in the development and growth of thriving communities,” United Way’s website reads.

This story originally appeared in the Salem Reporter.