Local News

Student used fake ID at two bars before fatal crash

Posted July 27, 2015 10:24 a.m. EDT
Updated July 28, 2015 11:37 a.m. EDT

— The 20-year-old University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student charged with murder after a wrong-way crash July 19 on Interstate 85 used the driver's license of a fraternity brother to drink at two Chapel Hill bars before he got behind the wheel, according to a search warrant released Monday.

The warrant states that Chandler Michael Kania drank at He's Not Here, at 112½ Franklin St., and La Residence, at 202 W. Rosemary St., using the driver's license of Joshua Campbell, a 21-year-old who graduated in May.

A few hours later, North Carolina 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 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 Baird, 6, of Brooklyn, N.Y., were killed in the fiery wreck. Harris' daughter, Jahnia King, 9, was seriously injured but has since been released from UNC Hospitals.

State Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement officials obtained the warrant to search La Residence's security video and financial records after Kania's friends told them they started the evening at a party, then went to La Residence around midnight and later to He's Not Here.

Kania's roommate told ALE agents that Kania routinely drank at La Residence and had used the fake ID for at least a month.

The search warrant states that ALE agents have a $14 receipt for Kania from He's Not Here and that a friend of Kania's said the bar staff there didn't check his ID before serving him that night, although the ID was checked at the door.

A manager at He's Not Here Monday said the establishment was cooperating with the investigation; employees of La Residence declined to comment.

Kania, a rising junior at UNC-Chapel Hill from Asheboro, is charged with three counts of second-degree murder, three counts of felony death by motor vehicle, one count of felony serious injury by motor vehicle, driving while impaired, driving the wrong way on an interstate, careless and reckless driving, driving after consuming alcohol as a minor, possession of alcohol by a minor and having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle.

Defense attorney Roger Smith Jr. asked that Kania's $1 million bond be reduced to $250,000, telling District Judge Charles Anderson that Kania has never been in trouble with the law before and is recovering from a broken arm and broken ankle suffered in the crash.

Assistant Orange County District Attorney Jeff Nieman, who last week pushed for a $1.5 million bond, argued against lowering it from $1 million, calling Kania a flight risk and a danger to himself and others.

Smith responded that Kania, who didn't attend Monday's court hearing, is in a wheelchair as he recuperates, which hardly makes him a flight risk. He also noted that Kania has already surrendered his passport.

Anderson rejected Smith's motion, saying that, before he even considers reducing Kania's bond, he wants a plan in place to get Kania into an alcohol treatment facility. The devastation caused by the collision is even more tragic given Kania's previous record of success in and out of school, he said.

"It begs the question, what are we doing wrong in this world? College campuses all over the state and the country are not preparing our most privileged, intelligent and entitled children how to handle alcohol? Where does it start? Where does it end?" Anderson said.

Nieman said Kania fought with friends who tried to stop him from getting behind the wheel after drinking. After the crash, troopers found a box of beer, and Kania handed them the driver's license of the 21-year-old fraternity brother.

"He’s a victim of the choices he made," McGee's cousin, Bakojo Oguntola, said after the court hearing. "There has to be accountability. We’re here to keep an eye on the situation that, in case family has the opportunity to speak up, then our voices can be heard. Darlene’s voice can’t be heard, but we can speak on her behalf."

Defense attorney Wade Smith said he and co-counsel Roger Smith want to get Kania into a rehab facility "where he can be cared for, so he can answer these charges and explain how in the world such a terrible thing happened.

"He was driving the wrong way, going north in the southbound lanes. No way anybody can’t say that happened," Wade Smith said. "It will be our duty to sort through the charges and make sure a just result Is reached. It’s certainly not a situation we would say something terrible didn’t happen. It certainly appears to be his fault."