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Durham DA Mulls Murder Charges in Alleged DWI Wreck

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Durham District Attorney Jim Hardin says he is hopeful such prosecutions will reduce drunk driving (WRAL-TV5 News)
DURHAM — In April, Durham County's district attorney won a conviction of first degree murder arising from a DWI case, one of only three such successful prosecutions in the nation.

Now he is deciding which level of murder charge, first or second degree, will be lodged against another motorist, also charged with DWI, in a wreck that occurred two weeks ago.

In the latest crash, an 80-year-old woman died Thursday of injuries sustained on Oct. 15. Charles S. Castleberry, 32, is accused of driving his white pick-up truck across the center line and hitting a green van driven by Odessa T. Parker.

The accident occurred on Alston Avenue, just 10 blocks from Parker's Durham home.

Castleberry, who lives in Knightdale, was said by officers to have been so impaired he did not use his brakes before impact. Castleberry reportedly has at least five prior drunk-driving convictions.

He is being held without bail at Wake County jail. In addition to murder and DWI charges, he also faces driving with a revoked license, reckless operation and possession of stolen property. The latter charge, police said, is because the license plate displayed on the truck he was driving had been stolen.

Back in April, District Attorney Jim Hardin Jr won a first-degree murder conviction in the traffic death of 4-year-old Megan Dail. Timothy Blackwell was convicted in the 1997 accident, and had a record of previous convictions for DWI.

Such prosecutions are extremely rare. Hardin says he hopes that successful prosecutions of such cases will have an impact and lessen the instances of drunk driving in the state.

Right now, Hardin said Castleberry has been charged with "generic" murder, and after attorneys have conferred he expects to determine whether to proceed with first-, second- or third-degree murder.

One of the other two similar cases occurred in Winston-Salem, where two Wake Forest University students were killed by a drunk driver. The other prosecution was in Kentucky.

Parker is to be buried today.



Mark Roberts, Reporter
Edward Wilson, Photographer
Kay Miller, Web Editor

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