Orange County teen sentenced in fatal December wreck

tgrubb@newsobserver.comJuly 18, 2013 

The prosecutor said the facts of the accident and Collin Lunsford’s age, clean record and willingness to take responsibility supported a plea worked out with the victims' families.

TAMMY GRUBB — tgrubb@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

— An Orange County teen was given a suspended 60-day sentence and unsupervised probation Thursday in connection with a December wreck that killed two high school students.

Collin Parker Lunsford, 18, of 2500 Little River Church Road, also will pay a $110 fine and court costs, and his driver’s license will be revoked for an unspecified amount of time. District Court Judge Charles Anderson also ordered him to work with the Orange County Schools and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office on a plan for teaching others about the consequences of making bad decisions.

Lunsford was charged in December with one count of prearranged speed competition, one count of reckless driving and two counts of misdemeanor death by vehicle. Under a plea agreement worked out with the victims’ families, he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of non-prearranged speed competition and reckless driving.

Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman said the facts of the accident and Lunsford’s age, clean record and willingness to take responsibility supported a lesser conviction.

Before passing sentence, Anderson asked Lunsford if he had anything to say. The young man turned to face the families of William Daniel Chase Underhill and Kacie Leann Chamberlain, who were killed in the wreck, and speaking too quietly to be heard clearly, he apologized for his role.

His attorney Sam Coleman said Lunsford has not driven since two days after the wreck. He continues to participate in public service projects, graduated in June from Orange High School and will be attending Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk this fall. He also has been working with a counselor, Coleman said.

“He has matured out of this, but he will have to (live) with this for the rest of his life,” Coleman said.

Lunsford and Underhill were racing Dec. 29 along Little River Church Road, where they reached speeds of more than 90 mph, according to N.C. Highway Patrol Trooper Stephan Foster. Although Lunsford was driving his 2005 Chevrolet 1500 left of center, he did not make contact with Underhill’s Ford F250, Foster said.

Underhill lost control of his truck and ran off the left side of the road. When he overcorrected, the truck ran off the right side, crashing into a mailbox and a tree. Neither he nor the three passengers in his truck were wearing seatbelts, Foster said.

Underhill and Chamberlain, both 16-year-old Orange High School students, were thrown from the vehicle and died. Two other passengers in Underhill’s truck, McCray Williams, 15, and Sam Whaley, 16, were seriously injured.

Lunsford and his two passengers returned to the scene of the crash to call 911. Foster said Lunsford cooperated fully with the investigation.

The victims’ families sat through the trial and left the courtroom together Thursday. Underhill’s mother, April Davis, asked to speak before Lunsford was sentenced.

Through tears, Davis said she had practiced what to say. Her other children and Underhill’s father weren’t strong enough to be there, but the families want something positive to come from their loss, she said.

“What I want to come out of this is that children need to understand ... their choices can affect and change people’s lives forever,” she said.

Davis said she encountered Lunsford a few months earlier when visiting Whaley. She almost didn’t go in when she found out he was there, she said.

“I told him that I forgive him for the wreck, because I know he’s young and I know it’s poor choices,” she said.

Grubb: 919-932-8746

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