Local News

Woman charged in fatal gas station accident appears in court

Posted September 14, 2009 1:19 p.m. EDT
Updated September 14, 2009 6:39 p.m. EDT

— A Fuquay-Varina woman wept in court Monday during her initial appearance on charges that she backed over a woman with her minivan at a gas station and killed her.

Amanda Bailey Culross, 30, is charged with second-degree murder, driving while impaired, child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The latter two charges stem from the fact that her three daughters, ages 4 to 8, were in the minivan at the time of the accident.

The incident occurred at the Hess gas station at the intersection of N.C. Highway 27 and N.C. Highway 55 in Coats at about 3:30 p.m. Friday, authorities said.

Jo Ann Bacon, 75, a retired teacher who spent 40 years in area schools, was crossing the parking lot to pay for gas when Culross' minivan hit her, police said.

Culross "had a strong odor of alcohol" and was given a blood test, according to a police report. The results aren't yet available.

"At this point in time, we stand behind that 100 percent. We do believe alcohol was involved," Coats Police Chief Eddie Jaggers said.

Authorities said charging someone with second-degree murder in a DWI crash is a question of malice. They consider factors like if a suspect has a prior DWI conviction, ran from police, left the scene or was driving in an extremely reckless fashion.

Culross was found guilty of DWI and failure to reduce speed in Wake County last year, according to court documents. She is appealing that decision.

Jaggers, who was the first officer to respond to the incident, said Culross was trying to give Bacon first aid when he arrived at the scene.

"She was upset, of course. It was a tragic accident," he said.

A woman who identified herself at Culross' mother agreed with that assessment Monday and said the incident wasn't a crime.

"We are all heartbroken over this. We know that there's a family that was just crushed by this accident, and we're so sorry," said the woman, who declined to give her name. "There's nothing we can do now but wait for the evidence to come back that she wasn't drinking with her children."

During a brief court hearing Monday, a judge appointed a lawyer for Culross and set another hearing in two weeks. She declined to comment after the hearing.

"It was an accident," said her father, Rick Culross. "We grieve, but we are grieving for the victim's family."

The three young girls remain in Amanda Culross' custody. She was released from jail Saturday on a $101,000 bond.