Local News

Funeral home family mourns one of their own

Posted January 21, 2011 11:04 p.m. EST
Updated January 24, 2011 5:48 p.m. EST

— A family that routinely helps others face death mourned one of their own Friday after a fatal wreck in Sanford.

William Thomas, 61, husband of Lulu Knotts, whose family owns a chain of funeral homes in North Carolina, was killed when a car rear-ended his truck, sending him into on-coming traffic.

"It was a shock, and it's something that's going to take a lot for us to get over," said John Tillman, Thomas's nephew.

Rev. Mamie Wilson-Hooker, pastor of Blandonia Presbyterian Church in Sanford, said Lulu and Billy Thomas are part of the church's extended family.  

"We loved him," she said.

"A couple of weeks ago, I got a big hug from him," she recalled. "He was a very big guy, very lovable, and so it breaks my heart."

The state Highway Patrol said Thomas was going southbound on Horner Boulevard and had slowed to make a left turn near Hill Avenue, when Reginald Petty, a captain in the Sanford Police Department, hit him from behind. Petty, who was off duty at the time, could face charges in the crash, troopers said.

Petty's Cadillac pushed Thomas's pickup into the northbound lane, where it was hit on the side by a Toyota SUV, authorities said.

Thomas died en route to Central Carolina Hospital. Petty was taken to the hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries, and the SUV driver, Nancy Pajdo, of Sanford, was uninjured.

Sanford police initially responded to the wreck, but they asked the Highway Patrol to investigate the case once they realized Petty was involved.