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Charges Upgraded for Alleged Drunk Driver

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Timothy Earl Blackwell
DURHAM — Durham County District Attorney Jim HardinJr. has announced plans to seek a first-degree murder convictionagainst a habitual drunken driver accused of causing a fatal accident.

Officers charged Timothy Earl Blackwell with second-degreemurder after he hit a minivan, killing 4-year-old Megan Dail. Monday,Hardin requested a court hearing regarding his request to seek afirst-degree murder conviction.

Such prosecutions are extremely rare in fatal, alcohol-related crashes.Defendants sometimes are charged with second-degree murder, but pleadguilty to a lesser charge, such as manslaughter.But Hardin said he would contend that two factors justify a first-degreemurderprosecution, arguing that Blackwell killed with premeditationand deliberation and that he killed Megan while committing another felony.

``In my mind there are factors that are as egregious as any Ican imagine,'' Hardin said.

Blackwell's attorney, Public Defender Bob Brown, declined tocomment Monday on Hardin's motion.

Bob Farb, a criminal law expert at the UNC Institute ofGovernment in Chapel Hill, knows of only one of other case in morethan 20 years that resulted in first-degree murder charges in DWIcases. A 69-year-old man faces the death penalty on charges that hekilled two Wake Forest University students in a drunken drivingaccident in September.

Hardin's decision pleases Megan's parents.

"This will set an example," Sherry Dail, Megan's mother, toldTheNews & Observeron Monday. "You can't just get behind the wheel ofa vehicle and get away with it. Megan didn't just die from a drunk. Shedied because of a habitual drunken driver."

At the time of the crash, Blackwell's license had been permanentlyrevoked as the result of numerous DWI convictions. He also had beenconvicted of habitual drunken driving and for drivingwithout a license.

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