Local News

Fayetteville Police Plan To Send Strong Message To Repeat Drunk Drivers

Posted October 18, 2000

— Last year in our state, more than 530 people died in alcohol-related accidents. Fayetteville police say it is time to send a strong message to people who drink and drive.

Kenneth Small never imagined he would be a single dad. But last month, his life was shattered after a car hit and killed his fiance on her way home from work. Police say the driver was drunk.

"The children keep me strong. They wake up some mornings and say they miss their mother," Small says. "That still takes a toll on me."

Bryan Russell was driving the car that hit Lawanda Miles. He already had one DWI conviction. This time, Fayetteville police charged him again with a DWI and with second-degree murder.

In another case, Regis Allen was driving a car when he hit a telephone pole and killed his passenger, Rahson White. Police say he was drunk when he had the accident and also had a DWI history. Police charged him Wednesday with murder.

Until recently, Fayetteville police would charge drunk drivers with death by a vehicle or manslaughter, but not anymore.

"We charge them with murder because it takes something to get their attention, and this is what is doing it," says Lt. Gary Scearce of the Fayetteville Police Department.

A spokeswoman forMothers Against Drunk Drivingsays the practice is becoming more prevalent because many judges are considering DUI as a violent crime.

Small knows a murder charge will not bring Lawanda back, but he still thinks it is a good idea.

"If they maybe just think about it, it might make a difference," he says.

North Carolina has the only two first-degree murder convictions in drunk driving cases. The most recent was the 1998 conviction ofTimothy Blackwell, who was convicted of murder in the death of Megan Dail in Durham. Mothers Against Drunk Driving say these cases helped set a precedent.

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