Street racers' 'code' makes investigating fatal crash difficult
Posted July 15, 2015
Middlesex, N.C. — The State Highway Patrol continues to search for the second driver in an illegal street race in rural Johnston County last weekend that ended with four people dead and a Zebulon man in jail.
But people who routinely attend such races say tracking the driver down will be difficult because of a "code" of silence among participants.
According to investigators and witnesses, a 1989 Ford Mustang and a second vehicle were racing on Simon Road, near Middlesex, late Sunday when the Mustang's driver, Jimmy Pearce II, lost control near Buckhorn Drive and veered into a crowd of more than a dozen spectators.
Carlton Ray Brooks, 42, Undra Montrell Taybron, 40, Garland Earp, 39, and Arrington Earp, 23, were killed in the crash. Larry Deans, Roncellis Marshall and Ida Mae Rapa were injured. Rapa was listed in serious condition Wednesday at WakeMed in Raleigh, and conditions for the other two were unavailable.
Pearce, 37, of 11557D N.C. Highway 39, is charged with four counts of second-degree murder and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon. He suffered minor injuries when his Mustang hit a tree after careening through the crowd.
"We've all done this kind of thing, and nobody ever thought it would turn out like this," said Beth, a street racing enthusiast who knows both Pearce and the victims. "I know in my heart and soul that he did not mean for this to happen."
Beth, who didn't want to provide her last name, said she wasn't at Sunday night's race and doesn't know who the other driver is. She said she doubts anyone who was there would identify him anyway.
"There's a code you go by," she said of the underground street racing community. "You go, you do it, you get gone. Nobody knows anybody. Nobody knows when, where, how."
Beth said the driver of the second car is doing what he's learned to do – disappear.
Highway Patrol troopers are hitting roadblocks in their investigation, not even being able to get a description of the second vehicle in the race, which witnesses said was traveling in the wrong lane at the time of the crash.
"I don't know if a code exists," patrol Sgt. Michael Baker said. "Unfortunately, in talking to the investigators who are out there actively trying to get information, I think they are hitting some walls when it comes to information."
The Highway Patrol has received 636 calls for drag racing so far this year. Although calls for squealing tires and reckless driving fall into the same category, troopers said a significant number of those 636 calls are for actual racing.
Beth and others said illegal races are held across the region every week, but authorities said they are difficult to stop because evidence and witnesses quickly vanish.
Pearce remains in the Johnston County jail and, through his attorney, declined an interview request Wednesday.
"This is a tragic situation, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families impacted by what has happened," attorney Michael Reece said in an email to WRAL News.
"If he could turn back the hands of time, there's no doubt in my mind that's what he would do," Beth said of Pearce, whom she and others described as a "teddy bear" of a man, a loving husband and father.
As for the second driver, she said, "I don't know how that person feels. I don't know how I would feel if I was in that situation."
Anyone who can identify the second driver or the car in the race is asked to call the Highway Patrol at 800-662-7956.