Local News

Guilty plea brings closure for UNC

Posted August 11, 2008
Updated August 12, 2008

— Many of Mohammed Taheri-azar's victims have recovered from their injuries, but they are still dealing with emotional problems more than two years after he drove a rented Jeep into a UNC-Chapel Hill gathering place.

The frightening sights and sounds of the March 3, 2006, attack have not left Julian Wooten. He was in The Pit at the time.

"The Jeep swerved and then it sped up, and you could hear screams of people being hit," he recalled. "For a long time afterwards, it was really hard to be outside and to be, like, in a common area because you didn't know if that was going to be the only thing that would happen."

Taheri-azar's drawn-out legal proceedings did not help Wooten get over those fears.

"Every day that you see him on TV and you see him in the courtroom, it kind of makes it more real for you and brings back those memories," he said.

Taheri-azar pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to nine counts of attempted first-degree murder. The judge indicated he would consolidate the plea into two counts of attempted first-degree murder, with the sentences served consecutively.

Taheri-azar could serve time between a minimum of 20 years and 10 months and a maximum of 33 years. Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said he expected nine of Taheri-azar's victims to attend the sentencing on Aug. 26.

At the time of the attack, Taheri-azar told police he wanted to kill people in response to the U.S. government's treatment of Muslims abroad. He also told police he expected to die as a result of his actions – either by people at the scene attacking him or police shooting him.

Since he expected to die, he left a letter at his house, which he told authorities about after his arrest.

"He's very clear in this letter that his intent was to kill people," Woodall said.

Woodall said Taheri-azar rented the Jeep because he thought it could do the most damage.

Many of the those who were on campus during the attack have graduated. "I think it's a bit distant for the campus community," Daily Tar Heel Editor Allison Nichols said.

For the staff of the Tar Heel, Taheri-azar never faded to a memory. He wrote at least 60 letters to the newspaper after the attack. In them, he explained that he planned to injure students as retaliation for the treatment of Muslims abroad.

For them, covering Tuesday's guilty plea is closure, Nichols said.

Wooten agreed. "I'm glad that he pleaded guilty because it was definitely him. He did it, and I think he needs to face justice for what he did – not to just people who were actually hit by the car, but the campus community," he said.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • ifcdirector Aug 14, 2008

    Where in the whole round world is the federal prosecution of this terrorist? This is clearly an act of terrorism and I thought our federal government was fighting a war on terror? I have to put this up there with the intentional neglect of our borders by the Bush administration as perhaps one of the most overlooked cases ever of complete apathy.

  • Tax Man Aug 13, 2008

    Duke Money - the death penalty has evolved to what it is today - originally you could be put to death for committing burglary, arson, robbery, rape as well as murder. Our courts have gradually taken away the crimes that apply and limited it to murder with special circumstances. The feds still can execute you for treason without having any other person ever hurt. I believe the death penalty should be available for any heinous crime where others are put in fear, tortured, raped even if they survive the ordeal. The people who commit such crimes against others should never be able to live among the law abiding citizens again - ever. So give them life w/o parole or death - but remove them from society permanently. This case clearly qualifies as a Hate Crime, Terrorism, ADW, Attempted Murder - this terrorist should, at the very least, remain in prison for the rest of his life. The feds need to step in after the State and nail this guy forever.

  • zanerx Aug 13, 2008

    If that happened asbrown a lot more people than Baptists would put up resistance. But they wouldn't be blowing themselves up. Christianity is a religion of life not death like Islam.

    I think it is a religion of life for everybody, not just we Christians

  • zanerx Aug 13, 2008

    No wonder there are people like zanerx making such ignorant comments about this incident.

    To the contrary, my comments are not ignorant at all; I simply find this hysterical overreaction (e.g., calls for the death penalty, etc.) completely at odds with our superior system of justice under the law that has developed over hundreds of years. Frankly, most of the comments made on this story make us sound like an American version of the Taliban - a society built on fear, hate, and revenge. I think we as Americans are better than that.

  • zanerx Aug 13, 2008

    Maybe zanerx and the rest of Chapel Hill can give this attempted murderer a big hug and hope he doesn't do it again..

    Maybe you can read my post again and reconsider your ridiculous response ...

  • zanerx Aug 13, 2008

    zanerx What? Are kidding? He purposefully ran over people with an automoble!

    No, I'm not kidding. Need I remind you of the several young wives and mothers that have been murdered (or are long missing)in our area? How about the little girl who is missing (and probably murdered) while the mother sits in jail, not cooperating with police. How about the gunman who opened fire during a children's service in a church just a week or so ago? Don't get me wrong - I am happy that the Pit attacker is going to prison for a long, long, time; but, let's not elevate his crime above all of the worse ones that are occurring all around us.

  • enoughsenough Aug 13, 2008

    9/11 terrorist on wheels.

  • rargos Aug 13, 2008

    "There are a lot worse crimes than his that are being committed every week here in North Carolina by (ostensibly) Christian American citizens."

    Maybe, but those crimes are not being committed BECAUSE the perps are Christian.

    If a Muslim robs a (Christian-owned/run) business because he needs cash, that's one thing. If he tries to murder people simply because they are Christian, that's completely different. The latter case would be a so-called "hate crime", which (as many here have pointed out), seems to only apply when white male Christians commit crimes against minorities.

  • teacher-mom Aug 12, 2008

    Steve Ceisp I agree with your post. I am surprised they let it go.

  • DukeMoney Aug 12, 2008

    Death penalty is for murder, Teacher-mom. Disapprove of my comment all you want. You were hyper-emotional and foolish when you posted your comments earlier. Now you say, "Guilty as the 911 terrorists"...wow! That tops it. Tell the families of those 3000 who DIED that day in the twin towers, in the Pentagon and in western Pa. Attempted murder is bad. A successful attempt is far, far worse. That's why the law makes the distinction when it comes to punishment. Plus, the murder (as in killed someone, not just the attempt) has to be particularly heinous, atrocious and cruel to qualify for the death penalty under state law.