Local News

Mourning families grateful for guilty plea; 'We've had enough'

Posted August 22, 2016 9:45 a.m. EDT
Updated August 22, 2016 5:50 p.m. EDT

"I have to thank you for pleading guilty to save us from a trial, to save us from that heartache, because we've had enough," Jennifer Kepley told the man who killed her husband.

On Monday morning at the Wake County Justice Center, Marshall Doran, 24, pleaded guilty to two counts of felony death by motor vehicle for his actions in a snowy crash in February 2014.

Doran, 24, from Kure Beach, tried to avoid a truck that had spun out in the snow on Interstate 40, but he hit and killed two men on the shoulder of the road. Nathaniel Williams, 35, of Hope Mills, and Larry Kepley, 40, of Winston Salem, had both stopped to help a stranded driver on the highway's ice-covered roads.

Williams was a communications specialist in the Navy who worked at the White House. Kepley was a truck driver whose wife said he was a great man and would be hard to replace.

Doran, a biology student at UNC-Wilmington, was on his way to visit his girlfriend at UNC-Chapel Hill when he hit the men. Prosecutors say that he never stopped his car.

Doran admitted that he drank half a bottle of wine prior to the crash.

When officers found Doran, he said, "You got me. I'm not going to run," he said. "Are those people okay? I'm the guy you're looking for."

Williams' mother mourned her son and the grandchildren she will never meet. "He was married. He had no children, but he wanted children desperately. I'll never get to see those children," she said.

"Your mom is sitting in this court. She will get to see you," she added. "Even though death took our son, putting that child to death would not make any sense. We can't bring Nathaniel back, we can only love and remember him."

Doran is already serving two life sentences for setting fires that killed two women at Carolina Beach in December 2014.

It was 10 months after the snowstorm when prosecutors said Doran set fire to several cars in Carolina Beach, igniting nearby condos and killing Darlene Maslar, 42, and Mary Cochran, 72.

Doran avoided a possible death sentence for the fires by pleading guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and arson.

"He should have stopped, tried to help, or call 911," said Doran's attorney, Doug Kingsberry. "He didn't have the courage, and for that he is forever sorry."

"There's not question in my mind there's a direct correlation between what happened in Wake County and what happened in New Hanover County."

Doran agreed to a minimum of 2 years in prison for the deaths of Williams and Kepley, which he will serve concurrently with his life sentences for the fire deaths.