Trial in fatal wrong-way I-85 crash delayed until 2016
Posted November 10, 2015
Hillsborough, N.C. — Prosecutors said Tuesday that evidence in a July crash on Interstate 85 that killed three people wouldn't be available until December, so further action in the case was put off until next year.
Chandler Michael Kania, 20, of Asheboro, faces three counts each of second-degree murder and felony death by motor vehicle and one count each of felony serious injury by motor vehicle, driving while impaired, driving left of center, obtaining alcohol by a minor and underage consumption of alcohol as a minor.
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 on July 19 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 Beard, 6, of Brooklyn, N.Y., were killed in the fiery wreck. Harris' daughter, Jahnia King, 9, was seriously injured.
A report by the Highway Patrol's reconstruction experts is the piece of evidence that prosecutors are waiting on, Orange County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman said.
Tests showed that Kania had a blood-alcohol content of 0.17, which is more than twice the level at which a driver is considered impaired under North Carolina law. Separate tests also showed that he had marijuana in his system at the time of the crash.
Authorities said he used a fake ID to drink at two Chapel Hill bars that night and that he fought with people who tried to take his keys and prevent him from getting behind the wheel. Those altercations led the grand jury to include the aggravating factor of "resisted the deterrence of others to commit offense" on Kania's indictment, which could increase his sentence if he is convicted.
Kania is under house arrest awaiting trial, and his defense attorneys said the former University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student and his family struggle every day knowing his actions affected so many lives.
"He struggled with his thoughts about the victims' families, and his prayers go out to them, but he struggles every day with this," attorney Roger Smith Jr. said.
"They realize this is a long journey and there's a ways to go and that their son will certainly go to prison," attorney Wade Smith said.