Local News

Trooper who missed body in towed car won't be charged

Posted April 16, 2013

— A State Highway Patrol trooper who didn't see a woman's body inside a wrecked car before he had it towed away last month won't face any charges, authorities said Tuesday.

Carolyn Ann Watkins' 2000 Pontiac Sunfire was found in a watery ditch, down a steep embankment off Swift Creek Road, about 4 miles southwest of Smithfield on March 29 and was towed to an impound lot, according to a report from the Highway Patrol.

Trooper Marlon Williams, who ordered the car towed, said "no driver (was) at the scene of this collision" in his report. However, Smithfield police found the Watkins' body in the driver's seat three days later after family members reported her missing.

Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle and Pam Walker, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Safety, said that no criminal charges will be filed against Williams.

DPS is still reviewing the incident, Walker said, and Williams, a nine-year veteran of the Highway Patrol, remains on administrative duty with pay pending the outcome of that investigation.

A preliminary autopsy showed that Wakins, 62, suffered head and neck trauma and likely died in the crash.

Her family criticized Williams' actions, saying that she might have been saved if someone had seen her in the car before it was towed from the crash scene.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • 75Tarheel Apr 25, 2013

    Why did the FAMILY wait for 3 DAYS to report her missing? That's the first questions that needs to be answered.

  • lkropp Apr 18, 2013

    A officer who does not have the best interest in the people he serves....Who was driving the car? That's the first question he should have asked himself....He most likely didn't even get out of his patrol car to investigate the accident. This lady might have been alive when he sat there doing nothing...We'll never know...If it was my mother, I would be devastated by the lack of caring by this officer. He should find another job where the public is not depending on him..

  • Sherlock Apr 17, 2013

    Another law suit for the state to fight..

  • iamarmed Apr 17, 2013

    you people amaze me... she wrecked ,had drugs on her and the autopsy showed she died on impact or shortly after... the "family" didn't report missing for 3 days really? why ain't u getting on them... why r u wanting to fire someone for a mistake..... maybe if the agency didn't push numbers so much he might have taken alittle more time to investigate....before some of you know it alls say something about the no quota law why don't u ask one what happens when they don't write "enough' tickets....

  • Red Green Apr 17, 2013

    The2ruthHurts - First let me say that for you to imply that I am misrepresenting myself to perhaps discredit what I say is rather petty. I was not a police officer but a firefighter (Deputy Chief) so I have firsthand experience in accident scenes. Let me break this down a little to hopefully make it more understandable. This might have been nothing more than a traffic accident and I agree there are no “cookie cutter” scenarios BUT I find it, as would most intelligent people, completely “reasonable” to expect to find a person at the scene of the accident and at some point I would begin to realize that the vehicle probably didn’t crash itself and hopefully I would wa-wa-wa-wa-wonder where the driver of the vehicle might be. There might be more to the story but I would think that if there was it would have been released in an attempt to downplay such a large blunder so I take the story at face value.

  • same ole story Apr 17, 2013


  • chivegas Apr 16, 2013

    So I assume (article doesn't stipulate) that the tow truck driver didn't see the motorist either? Usually, they at least check the parking brake and see if the car is in gear. This one is odd, but if two people involved missed seeing the driver, something just doesn't add up.

  • iron fist Apr 16, 2013

    She had been in the car three days even if he didn't look and see the body the odor would have been enough for someone to notice.

  • The2ruthHurts Apr 16, 2013

    "I used to do it. Secure the vehicle and search it along with the surrounding area. This is standard operating procedure basics. People could be counting on you to get it right. I'm sorry but this was a BIG mistake." -OleGlory

    If this is true and you "use to do it" then you will also agree that there are no "cookie-cutter" scenarios. In the job of law enforcement, no one situation is the same as the other. You and I can say we could have or would have done this or that, but let's face it- its all talk. None of us were there. And to assume that all the details are mentioned here and are indeed fact is a rookie mistake.

    You speak of "procedure." That would have been followed if there was any reason to believe that there was something more to this than a traffic accident. Law enforcement officers are human beings with flaws. The "high and mighty" standards that society puts on them is ridiculous let alone at the level they are willing to hold themselves to.

  • lwe1967 Apr 16, 2013

    They should wait for the autopsy. They can determine the time of death and whether she was alive when the car was towed or not. I do feel sorry for the family. Prayers to them. I would assume that the Highway Patrolman will be a little more deligent in looking for people at the site of an accident.