Local News

Trial to proceed after guilty plea in fatal I-85 crash

Posted October 3, 2016

— A former University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student accused of killing three people last year in a wrong-way collision on Interstate 85 pleaded guilty Monday to several lesser charges in the case, but a trial on three second-degree murder charges will proceed this week.

Authorities said Chandler Michael Kania was driving north in the southbound lanes near the split of I-85 and Interstate 40 in Orange County on July 19, 2015, 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.

Kania, 21, of Asheboro, pleaded guilty to three counts of felony death by motor vehicle and one count each of felony serious injury by motor vehicle, driving while impaired, driving the wrong way on an interstate, driving after consuming alcohol as a minor, possession of alcohol by a minor and having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle.

Both sides have worked toward a plea agreement for months but couldn't come to terms until Monday.

"We have been in talks with this family for a year," Orange County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman said. "I feel gratified by the fact that we have continued to have a good relationship with them and earned their support, and we support them."

The trial on the second-degree murder charges will come down to proving malice.

Toxicology tests show 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. Because Kania was 20 at the time, however, any alcohol in his system would have been illegal because he was underage.

Authorities said he borrowed a driver's license to get into two Chapel Hill bars in the hours before the crash and that he fought with friends who tried to stop him from driving after drinking.


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  • Renee Grainger Oct 4, 2016
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    Randi, very well said on all points! FYI am a white female. There is nothing that this creep can do to make up for what he did to these 2 beautiful women and 1 beautiful little girl. In my opinion, he has someone on his side that knows someone in high places. This racists mess needs to stop. Human do what humans do regardless of their race or gender or occupation. Not all humans are bad, not all cops are bad. However, I blame the media for adding fuel to the fire when it comes to racism and all of these useless protests. Media: start reporting on the good incidents that take place.

  • Renee Grainger Oct 4, 2016
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    Barney, would you want someone who killed ur mother, sister, daughter or any part of ur family actually giving u sedation 2 do dental work on u? Would u want this critter's murdering hands, w/ your family member's blood on them, n ur mouth? I surely wouldn't. Repeating Randi, what makes u think that this family can't afford a dentist? Do u want 2 pay 4 this murderer's education? Since, it seems we have taken the death penalty out of NC, which is what he deserves, we ALL will b paying 4 his hotel room, 3 good meals a day, which is better than most families/people get 2 eat on a daily basis, nice hot showers, clean clothing, play dates w/friends, wide screen, color television w/ the total cable package, the best of the best computers 2 play games on, as well as, to communicate w/ buddies, & all the other luxuries of the NC prision system. I don't, not for anyone. Can't pray @ a sporting event or in schools & can show disgrace during National Anthem but u want 2 bring God into this deal.

  • Renee Grainger Oct 4, 2016
    user avatar

    WOW, reading this thread is stunning. First, Betsy, what did this guy plead guilty for? It wasn't for 3 cts. of 1st degree murder, which is what he is guilty of. He plead guilty for 3 cts. of Felony death by motor vehicle, 3 cts. of Felong death "serious injury by motor vehicle" (serious injury...really??), DWI, having an open container, driving the wrong way on interstate, driving after consuming alcohol as a minor, and possession of alcohol. What this guy did is nothing more or less than 3 cts. of 1st degree murder! Second, what is so hard to prove? Pretty easy to prove murder w/ 3 dead bodies, tangled up in that car, with it going in the right direction and his car in the wrong direction. Finally, you think he should sit in a cell for "a few years"?? 4 of those charges r the same thing, just worded differently. He deserves to be placed in a car, alive, and squished w/ 1 of those things they use for junked cars, as scrapped metal & we wonder why racism still exists.

  • Randi Thistle Oct 4, 2016
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    at BARNEY...first of all....for you to suggest that the victims somehow can't afford their own dentist, or that they WOULD WANT the person who drove drunk and KILLED their loved ones to be anywhere near them much less have his grubby hands all in their mouth...think about it barney. your mom, wife, and daughter killed by a two times over-the-limit drunk and the "punishment" is....he has to give you free dental care.
    AND since you brought up the bible, WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT DRUNKARDS....it says drunkards and over-eaters should put knives to their own throats because they sahme their parents. i think it's best to not bring in your god as he's not allowed in our government. and until you come on here suggesting the same ridiculous thing to the next black person who does the same exact thing this boy did. thats right barney. i want you to come on here saying that same exact thing about a black man who wipes out a white family the same way.

  • Linda Tally Oct 4, 2016
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    I like Fred Garner's suggestion - let him finish his education while in prison, and make restitution by community service and regular financial contributions to the families he damaged for at least the next 60 years.

  • Fred Garner Oct 4, 2016
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    Barney, I suggest this. Perhaps allow him to finish undergrad at UNC-CH and then dental school while in prison. And then allow him to provide free dental care while in prison to inmates for the next 60 years. THEN when he makes parole he can provide free dental care for the under privileged for the rest of his life so he NEVER profits from his talent as a DDS. That's Solomon like enough for me.

  • Betsey Duggins Oct 3, 2016
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    He has at least admitted guilt. He will have this burden to deal with all his life. Probably not be found guilty of malice since this is very hard to prove.
    There are no easy answers for this case, only a stupid and impulsive boy jacked up on drugs, booze and testosterone. Too bad he learned this the hard way.
    No one can bring back the three people that were killed, but there should be great monetary compensation coming their way.
    Yes Barney, some of your ideas are worthwhile, but unrealistic. He may get back into dental school one day. First he needs to sit in a cell for a few years and ponder the choices he made that ruined so many lives.

  • Barney Gravel Oct 3, 2016
    user avatar

    Allison what you suggested is dogmatic justice. How does him being in prison the rest of his life help the victim's families? An approach more like Solomon would be to allow him to finish dental school. Then: He provide free dental care to the victims families. Have automatic deductions come out of his checking account each month, to send to the victim's families and have it indexed to inflation and be reviewed by the courts every three years. Three, have him provide free dental check-ups to an under served, poor area where this family was from. Your comments are racist as well.

  • Allison Blanchard Oct 3, 2016
    user avatar

    Give him life. But since he's a successful white male his wonderful life will be ripped from him. Chances are this kid gets nothing. No justice in this system.