Plea ends wreck trial

The fatal accident in 2004 took several months to sort out

Staff WriterJuly 21, 2006 

— The jury trial of a man charged with killing one man and injuring two others stopped abruptly Thursday after lawyers struck a plea deal.

Michael Bryan Keadle, 24, of Raleigh, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury. He pleaded guilty Thursday and was sentenced to between four years and five years, seven months in prison.

The case involved a wreck in August 2004 on Avent Ferry Road in West Raleigh. Brandon Lee Sova, a 19-year-old N.C. State University student, was killed in the collision.

The puzzling circumstances of the two-vehicle crash took officers more than a year to sort out.

But on Thursday, it meant something to Adalia "Jessie" Sova, an assistant dean at NCSU, to hear Keadle tell the judge "yes" when asked whether he was guilty of the charges.

After nearly two years, someone had taken responsibility for her son's death.

"Yes," she whispered loudly, with a steeled face wet with tears. "He said it."

Later, Keadle turned and faced the Sova family, as well as Troy Bradshaw and Bruce Chipa, two others seriously injured in the crash.

"I would just like to say to the families, I'm really sorry for all your loss and pain. To the Sovas, I never meant for Brandon to lose his life. To Troy Bradshaw, I didn't mean for you to get hurt. And to Bruce Chipa," he stopped, weeping as he looked at the young man in a wheelchair. "I'm sorry."

Keadle, who was driving one of the vehicles, was not charged in Sova's death until December 2005 -- more than a year after the accident -- because Raleigh police could not determine who was at fault in the wreck.

Sova, Bradshaw and Chipa were passengers in a Chevrolet Camaro driven by Victor Rivera.

Charging either driver was also delayed because a court order was necessary to get their blood alcohol levels because of medical privacy laws.

Both drivers were later determined to be drunk.

Rivera's blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit.

Keadle registered at .25, three times the legal limit, and tested positive for marijuana, said Wake Assistant District Attorney Jeff Cruden.

Rivera, who is in the Navy and formerly lived in Clayton, pleaded guilty in October to driving while intoxicated. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail and probation.

Bradshaw spent a week in a coma and suffered serious head injuries. Chipa has serious brain damage and cannot care for himself.

Staff writer Cindy George can be reached at 829-4656 or cgeorge@newsobserver.com.

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