Argument with frat brother preceded fatal I-85 crash
Posted October 7, 2016
Hillsborough, N.C. — A former University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student was involved in a heated argument with a fraternity brother last year shortly before driving the wrong-way on Interstate 85 and colliding head-on with a car and killing three people, witnesses testified Friday.
Chandler Michael Kania, 21, of Asheboro, is on trial on three counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Felecia Harris, 49, her friend Darlene McGee, 46, both of Charlotte, and Harris' granddaughter, Jahnice Beard, 6, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Kania was headed north in the southbound lanes of I-85 near the Interstate 40 split in Orange County on July 19, 2015, when his Jeep Wrangler collided head on with Harris' Suzuki sedan. Harris' daughter, Jahnia King, 9, survived the wreck but was seriously injured.
Kania pleaded guilty Monday to three counts of felony death by motor vehicle and one count each of felony serious injury by motor vehicle, driving while impaired, driving the wrong way on an interstate, driving after consuming alcohol as a minor, possession of alcohol by a minor and having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle.
Case Aldridge, a UNC-Chapel Hill senior, said he was with Kania at He's Not Here bar in Chapel Hill until closing on the morning of the crash, and the two fought as they were walking back to the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house. Aldridge said Kania kept pushing him to get back together with his ex-girlfriend, which in turn could boost Kania's chances for a relationship with a friend of hers.
During their profanity-laced exchange, Kania said something that "crossed the line," prompting Aldridge to walk away and not talk to him anymore. Aldridge said he was drunk that night and now cannot remember specifically what was said.
Several witnesses testified Thursday that Kania had been drinking and smoking marijuana for much of the day before the crash.
Aldridge stormed past Aditya Shah, a UNC-Chapel Hill senior and another fraternity brother of Kania's, telling him, "Chandler is so selfish."
Shah testified that he then tried to stop Kania from driving off in anger when he had been drinking, but Kania threw him to the ground and climbed into his Jeep. Shah said he was able to snatch Kania's cellphone, thinking that might stop him, but Kania drove off "very aggressively," running over a curb as he sped away.
Aldridge and Shah both read from an exchange of text messages sent a short time after the argument.
"You clearly only care about yourself," Aldridge texted to Kania.
Shah, who by then had Kania's phone, texted back that Kania had driven off. "We tried to stop him. He was mad. You did this," Shah texted to Aldridge.
He said Friday that he regretted blaming Aldridge, saying Kania was responsible for his own actions.
Shah said he had been drinking that night, so he enlisted the help of Mason McConnell, another fraternity brother, to drive around searching for Kania. But they were unsuccessful.
McConnell testified that he had never seen Kania become belligerent or act out of control when he was drunk.
Aldridge said under cross-examination that he told state troopers the following morning that Kania's behavior that night was out of character for him and that Aldridge didn't think Kania was trying to hurt himself in the crash.
Shah will again be on the witness stand when the trial resumes Monday.