Knoxville, TN – Jurors deliberated for over six hours and ultimately convicted a 23-year-old University of Tennessee graduate of hit-and-run, a vehicular crash in 2012 that killed three people including an unborn child.
Curtis Scott Harper was found guilty on 11 counts of vehicular homicide, driving under the influence, reckless endangerment, leaving the scene of an accident, and tampering with evidence. After the 10 verdicts were read, the judge brought up an additional charge of DUI second offense because in 2009 Harper was convicted of driving while intoxicated in North Carolina.
The multiple charges were levied against Harper for his role in the May 30 hit-and-run deaths of 45-year-old Nelzon Soto and 24-year-old Chasity Elaine Thornell, who was seven months pregnant with her unborn daughter.
Thornell and Soto were hit around 1:47 am on Washington Pike in North Knoxville, near Soto’s home as they assisted with a disabled vehicle. An unidentified friend of Thornell’s was on her way to the woman’s residence when she ran out of gas and pulled over near Soto’s driveway. The friend was not injured in the accident.
Soto’s son witnessed the ordeal, saying a Ford Explorer drug his father and the young mother over 100 feet and failed to stop thereafter.
Harper was taken into custody 12 hours after the hit-and-run was reported.
Prosecutors alleged in closing arguments that Harper had been speeding and drunk and showed little remorse when he struck the father of five and a pregnant woman with his 2004 Ford Explorer.
The defense countered, stating there had been no proof Harper had been inebriated or exceeding the speed limit leading up to the crash. They also denied the young man had been aware he’d hit people. Instead, Harper asserted he was sure he’d struck the roadside car, not people.
Unfortunately, Harper fled the scene of the crash and attempted to conceal his involvement.
The young man wept in court after the verdicts were read aloud. His bond was revoked, and Harper was taken back into custody. As for sentencing, scheduled for June 26, Harper could face more than 40 years in jail and over $124,000 in fines.
The families of the lost loved ones appeared satisfied with the court’s decision, and Assistant District Attorney Sarah Keith hopes the case will stop some people from drinking and driving. She hopes people choose to take a cab, slow down, avoid distractions while driving, and make the right decisions.
[Image via Shutterstock]