Local News

Man Pleads Guilty to Assault in Girlfriend's...

Posted Updated
Switch to classic wral.com
Thomas Suddarth III, charged in connection with the Jan. 26 elevator mishap at Granville Towers in Chapel Hill. (WRAL-TV5 News)
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — A college freshmanarrested after hisgirlfriend plunged five stories down an elevator shaft has pleadedguilty to assault.

Thomas Henry Suddarth III, 19, pleaded guilty to a charge ofassault on a female in the Jan. 26 accident that seriously injuredEvelyn L. Bankov, 18.

Prosecutors agreed to dismiss the charge if Suddarth pays a$130fine, does 72 hours of community service and stays out of troublefrom now until July 21, when he returns to Orange County DistrictCourt.

The agreement satisfied Bankov and her attorney, Wade Byrd ofFayetteville, who said he intended to file a negligence suitagainst Suddarth and ``all the people who were responsible for thatelevator.''

Suddarth admitted to police that he pushed Bankov during anargument at Granville Towers, a private dormitory where both livednear the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said DistrictAttorney Carl Fox.

She fell back against an elevator door, which unexpectedlyopened, sending her tumbling down the shaft. Suddarth climbed fivestories down the shaft to help her until rescue crews arrived.

Bankov's injuries included a compound fracture of her left leg.

State records show the elevator had a history of door problems,specifically popping off its track at the bottom.

If Suddarth had pleaded guilty or been convicted of assault,hisinsurance company likely would not have been liable for civildamages, said Fox. That's because an assault is an intentional actunder the law, and insurance covers only accidents.

``This is a better result for her,'' Fox said.

Fox said he was willing to defer prosecution in part because hecould find no evidence of criminal intent on Suddarth's part.

Copyright ©1997 AssociatedPress. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast,rewritten, or distributed.

ImageFeedback