HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Chandler Kania, a former UNC student charged in a drunken wrong-way Interstate 85 crash in 2015, was found guilty of three counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of reckless driving on Monday.
Monday was the third day of deliberations in Kania’s trial.
Kania had already pleaded guilty to a number of charges stemming from the crash, but took three counts of second-degree murder and reckless driving to trial.
The judge sentenced Kania to between 153 and 196 months to prison, but he could have faced 60 years in prison if found guilty of second-degree murder.
The sentencing on Monday involved the charges he previously pleaded guilty to and Monday’s conviction.
Kania spoke for the first time during the sentencing phase of the trial.
“As a direct result of my behavior three lives were lost, three innocent people are dead because of me,” Kania said. “I made a terrible decision. I cost the lives of Felecia Harris, Darlene McGee, Jahnice Beard and seriously injured Jahnia King and I take full responsibility for my actions.”
A juror told CBS North Carolina’s David Hurst the jury was split 50-50 on second-degree murder charge on Friday but then came to a unanimous decision Monday morning.
Jahmonie Smith, whose mom Felecia Harris and daughter Jahnice Beard died in the crash, was not happy with the verdict and sentencing.
“My daughter was 6-years-old, she didn’t get to live her life and he did. He took that from her,” Smith said. “I’m disappointed in the verdict, I don’t feel like he got enough time, I don’t feel like he’s sorry. I don’t feel like justice was served.”
Kania, who was 20 at the time, spent the night leading up to the July 19, 2015 crash drinking heavily before being involved in an argument over a girl, according to testimony. Kania drove his Jeep the wrong way on I-85 in Orange County, hitting a Suzuki sedan head-on.
Felecia Harris, 49, of Charlotte, Darlene McGee, 46, of Charlotte, and 6-year-old Jahnice Beard of Brooklyn, New York were killed in the collision. Jahnia King survived the crash.
The three victims were headed to Charlotte after traveling to Virginia for a family reunion.
The jury had three options: They could have found Kania guilty of second-degree murder, guilty of involuntary manslaughter or not guilty.
The jury deliberated for roughly three hours Thursday.
On Friday, they asked for a flip board, post-it notes, photos of skid marks after the crash, and text messages.
Kania was found guilty on the four charges on Monday by a unanimous jury.
On Oct. 3, Kania pleaded guilty to:
- Three counts of felony death by motor vehicle
- Felony charge of causing serious injury
- Felony driving while impaired
- Having on open container of alcohol
- Driving after consuming alcohol while under age 21
- Consuming alcohol under age 21
- Two counts of using a false driver’s license
- Driving the wrong way on a dual-lane highway
Prosecutors said the guilty plea was not part of any deal made by Kania and his attorneys.
Kania’s attorney, Roger Smith, said that he was releived by the verdict, which avoided second-degree murder.
“He (Kania) understood the severity of what he did and he always took responsibility for it,” Smith said. “I’ve never felt my heart beat that hard ever before. I mean that. Just unbelievable relief,” Smith said about the verdict.
“This is not about a victory in court this will always be about the tragedy that happened on July 19 and the families that were affected, we’re very mindful of that and our hearts go out to those families,” Smith added.