Local News

Judge sets $1M bond for trucker in fatal I-40 wreck

Posted July 15, 2011 2:57 p.m. EDT
Updated July 15, 2011 6:35 p.m. EDT

— A judge on Friday called a truck driver charged in the deaths of three people in a fiery wreck on Interstate 40 last month "a danger to the public safety" and ordered him held under a $1 million bond.

Ronald Eugene Graybeal, 50, of Newport, Tenn., is charged with three counts of felony death by vehicle, failure to reduce speed, driving while impaired and possession of marijuana, methadone and drug paraphernalia.

Troopers said Graybeal was westbound on I-40 near U.S. Highway 15/501 on June 30 when he crashed into four vehicles, killing three of the drivers.

Highway Patrol investigators said Graybeal was under the influence of drugs at the time of the wreck and that he was traveling at 65 mph when he came upon a line of traffic that had just starting moving.

The chain-reaction wreck that ensued caused one vehicle to burst into flames.

Gary Dwayne Smith, 45, of Burlington, died in the burning vehicle, and John Hall Llanio, 38, of Kannapolis, and Barbara Boda Caldwell, 64, of Mebane, also were killed in the crash.

Orange County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman said during a Friday afternoon court hearing that prosecutors might upgrade the charges against Graybeal to second-degree murder. He said they are still trying to sort out his previous criminal record in different states.

A search by WRAL News found that Graybeal is on the sex offender registry in Tennessee after being convicted of rape there. Records also show an aggravated burglary conviction in Tennessee, and prosecutors said they believe from an initial search that Graybeal served a little more than a year for an unspecified firearms charge in Virginia.

Defense attorney Natasha Adams requested a $250,000 bond, saying Graybeal doesn't yet face any murder charges, but District Court Judge Beverly Scarlett ordered the $1 million bond.

If he makes bond, he would have to follow several conditions set by the judge, including alcohol and drug monitoring.