Local News

Jury Selection Complete In Trial Of Man Charged In I-540 Deaths

Posted June 28, 2004 5:17 a.m. EDT

— Jury selection was completed Monday in the case of a Raleigh man who faces charges stemming from a fatal wreck on Interstate 540 three years ago that killed four teenagers.

Chris Petersen is charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Prosecutors believe Peterson and a car, driven by Bryan Reaves, were racing on I-540 near Leesville Road when Reaves' car wrecked, killing him and his passengers, Jamie Brewer, Mike Smith and Matthew Yurcak.

"He has had many, many opportunities to come forward," said Dee Welch, Brewer's mother. "I have to be honest with you, if he had come to me in the beginning and said I made a terrible mistake, I probably would have been here saying he's guilty, but give him a break."

The defense claims it was an unfortunate accident and racing was not involved in the accident.

As jury selection took place Monday, many family members of the victims held back tears.

"I'm numb. I'm truly numb. It reminds me of the night of that accident," said Irma Reaves, Bryan's mother.

"My heart bleeds every day. I lost my only son and I lost my best friend," said Petra Smith, David's mother.

Rick Gammon, Petersen's attorney, said the incident has been hard for Petersen as well.

"He also, obviously, struggles with the fact that he sees the families and sees the pain they are going through. This is a tragic case," he said.

"It has always been important to know what really happened," said Gary Yurcak, Matthew's father. "Nothing is going to bring Matthew back. Nothing is going to bring back Jamie, Michael or Bryan, but understanding what happened and accountability."

The jury is made up of eight men and four women. Opening statements are scheduled to begin Tuesday morning. Petersen is currently out of jail on bond.

If convicted, Petersen could be sentenced to two years in prison for each charge for a total of eight years. The trial is expected to last a week.

Investigators said alcohol was not a factor in the wreck.