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Blackwell Won't Face Death Penalty

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DURHAM — The man accused in the February crash thatkilled a 4-year-old girl will face a first-degree murder charge, but itwon't be a capital case.

Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson agreed with the arguments ofDurham District Attorney Jim Hardin that the second-degree murder chargesagainst Timothy E. Blackwell should be upgraded to first degree, but hestopped at making it a potential death penalty case. Consequently, themost Blackwell could face is life imprisonment.

Hardin's move is rare. Blackwell will be only the second person instate history against whom a first-degree murder conviction will be soughtin a drunk driving case. The other instance involves a Winston-Salemresident charged with killing two Wake Forest University studentsin a drunk driving accident in September 1996.

Initially, Blackwell had been charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 27 death of Megan Dail, who had been riding in the family's vandriven by her father. The pickup truck Blackwell was driving slammed intothe Dail vehicle. Just seconds before, he had also sideswiped a cardriven by Megan's mother, Sherry Dail.

Blackwell was also charged with driving while intoxicated, driving witha revoked license, driving left of center, driving with an open containerand possession of drug paraphernalia. His record includes 21 citings fordriving with a revoked license, and five citings for impaired driving.His license had been permanently revoked in 1989.