Witnesses testified Friday that a former UNC student got into a heated argument before driving drunk and crashing head-on into another car last year, killing three people in Orange County.
Chandler Kania, 21, of Asheboro, is being tried on three felony second-degree murder charges and one misdemeanor reckless-driving charge in the July 19, 2015, fatal wreck on Interstate 85/40, just west of Hillsborough.
He pleaded guilty to other charges, including three counts of felony death by motor vehicle, felony serious injury by motor vehicle and driving while impaired.
Darlene McGee, Felecia Harris King and King’s granddaughter Jahnice Beard, 6, were killed in the wreck. King’s daughter Jahnia King, now 11, survived the crash with serious injuries.
Both sides agree on the details of the case, but prosecutors must prove Kania acted with malice to convict him of second-degree murder.
Kania’s friends and Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity brothers have testified to his underage drinking and illegal drug use up to two days before the crash.
UNC student Joseph Lopez, a fraternity member, said he warned Kania in July 18 text messages against getting involved in a relationship between Alexander “Case” Aldridge and Rebecca Greene. Aldridge had made it clear he didn’t want to be with Greene, but was still texting her, Lopez said.
He told Kania to tell Aldridge he should be with Greene or leave her alone, Lopez said. Kania texted back that he would confront Aldridge that night, he said.
“We’re getting them back together tonight. It’s happening. It may blow up in smoke, but it’ll be a sight to see,” Lopez said, reading Kania’s text in court.
Aldridge testified that Kania also texted him July 18 about giving Greene another chance. Kania texted at one point that Greene might help him to date her friend Marley Spence if Aldridge gave her another shot, he said, but he wasn’t interested.
Aldridge said he met Kania and other friends that night at the La Residence restaurant in Chapel Hill – using his fake identification to get in – and they each had a drink before going with friends about an hour later to another bar, He’s Not Here, for beers.
They argued about Greene after leaving the bar, Aldridge said, cursing at each other.
That’s when Kania said “something that I felt normally wouldn’t come out of his mouth, and it shocked me enough to where I stopped walking,” Aldridge said. “It stunned me for a minute and I walked away, because I was just thrown off.”
He did not remember Kania’s comment, Aldridge told Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman. He texted Kania around 2:30 a.m., cursing at him and telling him, “You clearly only care about yourself,” he said. He got a text back from fraternity brother Aditya Shah, using Kania’s phone, that Kania had left in his Jeep.
Shah, a UNC senior, also went to the bars that night and an earlier party at Greene’s apartment. He had several beers, Shah said, but was not drunk and stayed behind with Kania’s hometown friend Alex Pugh to watch a commotion downtown.
They passed a “very infuriated” Aldridge, who remarked, “Chandler’s so selfish,” he said.
Shah said he ran toward the fraternity and saw Kania heading for his Jeep. He tried to tackle him, but Kania “picked me up and threw me to the ground when I tried to stop him,” he said, demonstrating what happened with Nieman for the jury. He hit his head, Shah said, and the force broke his phone.
He saw Pugh and Hall pleading with Kania to stop, he said, and got up to grab the keys. Kania slapped his hand away, so he grabbed Kania’s phone instead, he said.
Kania then “very aggressively” backed the Jeep over the curb and into the street, Shah said. He returned a few minutes later, looked at them, and drove away again, Shah said. They looked for Kania for a while, he said, but gave up and returned to the fraternity.
Kania’s mother contacted them later that morning to say Kania was in the hospital, the witnesses said, and the N.C. Highway Patrol showed up to talk with them.