MIDDLESEX, N.C. (AP) — A man who was illegally drag racing has been charged with second-degree murder after he careened into spectators gathered late at night on the shoulder of a country road, police said, killing four people and injuring others in a chaotic and bloody scene.
One driver apparently lost control of his 1989 Ford Mustang and plowed into the spectators on the shoulder, then hit a tree, the North Carolina Highway Patrol said in a news release. Sgt. Michael Baker said little is known about the second driver, who fled.
The Mustang's driver, Jimmy Pearce II, 37, of Zebulon, is charged with three counts of second-degree murder and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon. Jail records didn't show whether he had an attorney. A man who answered the door at Pearce's house said the suspect's relatives didn't have any comment and that his wife wasn't home.
Pearce is expected to be charged with the death of the fourth victim, Baker said. A fifth person was in critical condition.
Two other bystanders were in fair condition Monday, said Teresa Moss, a spokeswoman for WakeMed hospitals in Raleigh.
The intersection of two country roads where the crash happened is surrounded by farmland, along with modest houses on spacious lots.
The place where witnesses said the race started had two sets of skid marks. Less than a quarter-mile down the road, another set of skid marks veered to the right toward a stand of trees where the car came to rest.
Ramona Martinez said the car wrecked at the edge of her large yard, about 100 yards from her house. She said she and her husband were watching a movie late Sunday night when they heard the crash and went outside.
"There were seven people on the ground. A lot of blood. It was terrible," she said, adding that eventually a handful of ambulances and a half dozen police cars with flashing lights showed up.
Martinez said there have been drag races along the road as often as twice a month for the past year since she moved to the neighborhood. On Sunday night, there were six or seven cars belonging to spectators parked on a side road near her house. She said there were 15 to 20 people watching.
"They park on the street to see the racing. People were standing up there to watch and take pictures," she said, pointing to the edge of her property where the crash occurred.
She said her family hasn't complained in the past, but she's not sure if any neighbors have. She said her three daughters and son, ages 8 to 15, often walk their dog along the street where the racing happened.
"I feel unsafe," she said.
A quarter-mile away where the race started, a handful of people gathered to see the crash site and share stories about those killed, including Garland Earp, 39. The others killed were Undra Montrell Taybron, 40, of Wilson; Arrington Earp, 23; and Carlton Ray Brooks, 42.
Terry Faison, who lives about a half-mile away, said he's known Garland Earp for four or five years as part of a group that gathers in Middlesex to get coffee and chat. He said Earp worked running errands and finding truck parts for a tanker truck company that delivers to gas stations. He said Arrington Earp was Garland Earp's nephew.
Mary Lou McClenny said she was a teacher's assistant for Garland Earp when he was a first-grader in Middlesex in the early 1980s.
"He would keep you laughing," she said. "You just had students who were special to you, and he was one of them."