4 teens surrender on hit-run charges

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Shavonne Potts

Salisbury Post

Four Rowan teens charged with involuntary manslaughter turned themselves in to authorities Wednesday and Thursday afternoon.

Two other teens indicted in the death of 27-year-old Michael Jason Brown had not surrendered as of Thursday night.

Eric Gregory Taylor, 19, of 525 Gin Road, Gold Hill, walked into the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office around 3:12 p.m. Wednesday, officials said.

A Rowan County grand jury indicted Taylor Monday on charges of involuntary manslaughter and felonious hit and run/failure to remain at the scene of the May 12 accident where Brown died.

The indictment identifies Taylor as the driver of the car that collided with the China Grove man as he drove along U.S. 52 on his motor scooter.

He was released Wednesday under a $5,000 secured bond.

Turning themselves in Thursday afternoon were: Alstin Lee Vanderford, 19, of 1480 Emmanuel Church Road, Rockwell; Rachel Miller, 19, of 960 Emmauel Church Road, also of Rockwell; and Brandon Heathcliff Lowery, 21, of 165 Johnson Dairy Road, Rockwell.

The grand jury indicted each of the three teens on charges of involuntary manslaughter and being a passenger and leaving the scene of an accident.

They’ve each been released from the Rowan County Detention Center under a $5,000 secured bond.

As of late Thursday, those who had not turned themselves in to authorities were: Patsy Elizabeth Morgan, 19, of 7140 U.S. 52, Salisbury, and Derek Ryan Talbert, 21, of 6815 Bringle Ferry Road, Salisbury.

Rowan County District Attorney Bill Kenerly explained that the punishment for felony involuntary manslaughter carries a sentence anywhere from probation to the maximum sentence of 49 to 59 months in prison.

A conviction of leaving the scene of an accident carries a sentence ranging from community service to 25 to 30 months in prison.

According to arrest warrants, the teens are scheduled for a first court hearing during the next Superior Court session. No specific date has been determined.

Arresting documents do not identify the teens’ attorneys.

Kenerly said he would not discuss specific details of the accident.

Michael Jason Brown was riding his motorized scooter at the intersection when it overturned on U.S. 52 between Granite Quarry and Rockwell.

In an initial report by the N.C. Highway Patrol, the investigation was deemed an accident. Officials believed Brown crossed the center line and overturned. He was traveling near the point where Sides Road intersects U.S. 52. The scooter traveled 61 feet after turning over.

According to a Thursday press release from the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, around Oct. 22, investigators received information that another vehicle may have been involved in the scooter fatality.

Detective Adam Loflin was assigned the case and conducted the investigation, revealing a 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee, driven by Taylor, struck the scooter.

Taylor was traveling south on U.S. 52 toward Rockwell, and Brown was traveling north on U. S. 52 toward Salisbury at the time of the collision.

“Taylor did not stop and render aid, nor did he or his passengers call anyone for help,” the release said.

The case was presented to a grand jury Monday, in which true bills of indictment were returned. Arrest orders were then drawn up charging the teens.

Vanderford was convicted of ethnic intimidation in 2004 after he and three other teens, none of whom is involved in this incident, poured water on a Wendy’s clerk at the drive-thru window. The teens videotaped themselves and directed racial slurs toward the young woman employee.

Vanderford and his co-defendants, at the victim’s request, were given a prayer for judgment. A prayer for judgment means the defendant admits responsibility for the incident and can be treated as guilty by the courts but receives no formal judgment.

If another violation occurs, the previous violation has an impact on the existing one.

Kenerly said he could not comment on how Vanderford’s previous conviction would affect his latest charge.


Contact Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253 or spotts@salisburypost.com.