ONSLOW COUNTY - A man was sentenced Monday to at least 12 years and 7 months in prison, for a drunk-driving wreck that killed two people.
An Onslow County judge ordered 28-year-old Christopher Cash to spend between 12 years and 7 months to 19 years and 5 months behind bars. He was found guilty of two counts of involuntary manslaughter, two counts of death by motor vehicle, two counts of felonious hit and run, serious injury by motor vehicle, driving while impaired, reckless driving and driving while license revoked.
Cash was originally charged with second-degree murder for the wreck on Pony Farm Road, just after midnight on January 2012. Kevin Embler, 24, and Jerry Jackson, 49, were ejected about 40 feet from Cash's Volkswagen Jetta. They were pronounced dead at the scene. In addition, two other people were injured.
During closing arguments, the prosecuting attorneys said there were enough evidence to place Cash behind the wheel of the car at the time of the crash. The defense attorney raised reasonable doubt as to who was actually driving.
Several witnesses testified Friday, including Trooper T.R. Silance, one of the first responding law enforcement officers. A detective who organized a photo-lineup for an eyewitness to identify the suspect. The witness positively identified Cash with 90 to 100 percent certainty.
Christopher Cash's younger brother, 26-year-old Jeffrey, also testified against him Thursday, saying Christopher was responsible for the deadly wreck.
Other witnesses called to the stand: EMS responder Marcie Roney and Medical Examiner William Kelly.
One piece of evidence that caught the attention of the entire courtroom was surveillance footage of a Wilco gas station, where Jeff said the group stopped moments before the accident.
The video showed Christopher Cash going into the convenience store to buy more beer. In the background, the Jetta somehow drove away.
Defense Attorney Stuart Popkin and the Cash family insisted it was Jeffrey who was driving when the crash happened, using the surveillance video as supporting evidence.
But the prosecuting side maintained that Christopher Cash was behind the wheel.
Brian O'Hara, a deaf man who lives near where the accident happened, testified Wednesday as an eyewitness with the help of a sign language interpreter.
O'Hara said when he was driving on Pony Farm Road after work, he saw glimmering light and realized it was glass. As he approached the wreck scene, he saw two bodies: one face down in the road and another in a ditch.
O'Hara said when he came closer to the wrecked car, he saw Christopher Cash and his fiance, Chauntelle Wann, inside the car. Christopher's brother, Jeffrey, was outside the car, according to O'Hara.
O'Hara said he first pulled Wann out of the car, then Christopher Cash. He mentioned later in his testimony that he and Wann had exchanged numbers a couple of weeks later when he saw her working at a local Wilco, where O'Hara often frequented. O'Hara said that during one texting conversation, Wann had told him that Christopher Cash was the driver of the car.
O'Hara later testified that he saw Christopher Cash leave the scene in a cab. He said he tried to alert responding deputies at the scene of the accident, but it was difficult for him to communicate with them because of his hearing and speech impairment.
As O'Hara delivered his several-hour long testimony, Christopher Cash sat in silence, leaning back and forth in his chair, looking back at his family.
"It's a little tense," said State Trooper T.R. Silance. "Obviously hoping for all the evidence that you've prepared for the past year, is able to be enough to convince the jury that indeed the person you have charged is guilty of the crime and have that verdict."
Silance was among the first to respond to the scene. In his 11 years as a trooper, he said he hasn't seen anything quite like this.
"This is the first case I've had that actually has the degree of a murder trial," Silance said. "I've had several death cases, but never one that's been as intense as this and as much involved, as with gathering evidence, gathering witnesses, and trying to prove your case."
Silance said this is deemed a murder trial because Christopher Cash had been charged with DWI before.