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Murder charges filed against UNC student in wrong-way I-85 crash

Posted July 23, 2015
Updated July 24, 2015

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— Three second-degree murder charges were filed Thursday against a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student accused of killing three people in a weekend crash on Interstate 85.

Chandler Michael Kania, 20, of Asheboro, also was charged with three counts of felony death by motor vehicle and one count of felony serious injury by motor vehicle. He was previously charged with driving while impaired, driving the wrong way on an interstate, careless and reckless driving, driving after consuming alcohol as a minor, possession of alcohol by a minor and having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle.

District Judge Charles Anderson set a $1 million bond for Kania, who appeared in court in a wheelchair. He had been recovering at UNC Hospitals from injuries suffered in the fiery Sunday morning crash and was taken to court upon his release.

"Based upon our understanding of the facts, there is substantial reason to believe he is a danger not only to others but also to himself. That's a concern of ours," said Assistant Orange County District Attorney Jeff Nieman, who wanted a $1.5 million bond.

State Highway Patrol troopers say Kania was driving north in the southbound lanes near the split of I-85 and Interstate 40 in Orange County early Sunday when his Jeep Wrangler collided with a Suzuki driven by Felecia Harris.

Harris, 49, of Charlotte, her friend Darlene McGee, 46, of Charlotte, and Harris' granddaughter Jahnice Baird, 6, of Brooklyn, N.Y., were killed in the fiery wreck. Harris' daughter, Jahnia King, 9, was seriously injured but was released Thursday from UNC Hospitals.

An eyewitness saw Kania was on the wrong side of I-85 for at least 6 miles before the head-on collision. Nieman said troopers found a box of beer at the crash site and said Kania had "a strong odor of alcohol" and bloodshot eyes.

Kania, a rising junior at UNC-Chapel Hill, handed troopers the driver's license of someone else, indicating he was 21, Nieman said, adding that Kania didn't have his own driver's license at the time but had a fraternity ID with his real name.

Authorities have evidence that Kania went to at least two different bars that night, using the ID that gave his age as 21, the prosecutor said.

Up to five people tried to stop Kania from getting behind the wheel in Chapel Hill, Nieman said, and the effort ended in a physical altercation, with one person being knocked to the ground. The people tried to take Kania's keys but wound up grabbing his cellphone, thinking that would prevent him from leaving, the prosecutor said.

Kania's mother sobbed in the courtroom as Nieman described the case against him. The family on Wednesday issued a statement saying they were "absolutely devastated about this tragedy."

"This case represents almost unimaginable horror and loss and tragedy and is an indictment, in many ways, of the world we live in and the world we tolerate," Anderson said in setting Kania's bond.

If Kania posts bond, the judge ordered that he remain under electronic monitoring and not leave his home between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.

16 Comments

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  • Andrew Stephenson Jul 24, 2015
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    As satisfying as that may be, knowing how guilty this guy is, you REALLY don't want to ignore the Due Process Clause. "Innocent until proven guilty" is the law of the land. Let him go through the system the way it is suppose to. We can't throw out the 5th, 6th, and 14th amendment because it "feels good". That's a slippery slope. This will be a pretty open/shut case. He will not walk away with just a slap on the wrist.

  • Sam Nada Jul 24, 2015
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    "If he was definitely dangerous, then no bond would be set.

    So, the court doesn't believe he's a danger to society. And, I seriously doubt he's going to be partying or even drink between now and the court date.

    This kind of insane bond just flies in the face of the 8th amendment."

    Reasonable people can disagree. I disagree with your assessment. If there were a way to guarantee he couldn't drink and drive, then that would be one thing, but short of that his actions, which caused multiple innocent deaths, must be prevented from happening again. Your suggestion that a 10k bond when his parents are obviously wealthy, and would likely spend many times that amount to spare him a lengthy jail sentence, is laughable.

  • Jason Starcommand Jul 24, 2015
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    Look at the 80 years Melissa Marvin got for her carelessness.

  • Jason Starcommand Jul 24, 2015
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    Fake ID. I'm sure it's not the first time he's used his fake ID to drink and drive. I know the people that fought him to keep him from driving drunk wish they had knocked him the hell out now. Prayers for the family.

  • Ann Hackett Jul 24, 2015
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    Everybody is commenting about the young man that made a bad choice, he is going to have to live with for the rest of his life, What about the victims whose lives were cut short ....Prayers for the Familes

  • Paul Stroud Jul 24, 2015
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    "And, I seriously doubt he's going to be partying or even drink between now and the court date."

    Wow, so a guy gets smashed, doesn't listen to his friends, kills three people, and suddenly he's going to be a model citizen. Are you freeking kidding me? Based on what, your, apparent, innate knowledge of college kids? Really?!?

    " This kind of insane bond just flies in the face of the 8th amendment."

    Perhaps you missed the part about killing 3 people. Read the article again, I think you must have missed something.

  • Janet Scott Jul 24, 2015
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    I am hoping that Roger Smith has decided not to be his attorney.

  • Paul Jones Jul 24, 2015
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    If he was definitely dangerous, then no bond would be set.

    So, the court doesn't believe he's a danger to society. And, I seriously doubt he's going to be partying or even drink between now and the court date.

    This kind of insane bond just flies in the face of the 8th amendment.

  • Rick Fetter Jul 24, 2015
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    He will never see real justice in out weak legal system.

  • Sam Nada Jul 23, 2015
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    How can you suggest he's not a danger to society?

    http://criminal.lawyers.com/criminal-law-basics/denying-bail-for-a-dangerous-defendant.html

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