Driver in I-440 fatal wreck faces judge

January 4, 2011 4:10:12 AM PST
A man accused of driving drunk and causing a fatal wreck on the Beltline was in a Raleigh courtroom Monday.The court appearance took only minutes, but the victim's family says those were some of the most difficult moments of their lives.

"Anger, hurt, pain --a whole lot of anger," said Toniette Cannady, the victim's aunt.

Cannady says she last saw her 29-year-old nephew, Adolophus "Markeith" Cannady at the family's annual New Year's Eve party.

Hours later, his life came to an abrupt end on I-440. Raleigh Police say he and a friend were pushing a car that had broken down around 4 a.m. on the westbound side of the Beltline, in the area of Brentwood Road, when 44-year-old Michael Newkirk hit both men and kept driving.

Cannady died, while his friend, Donsha Worsley, suffered broken bones.

Newkirk is charged with driving while impaired, driving while his license was revoked, felony hit-and-run and death by vehicle.

Court documents show Newkirk had a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit.

"He could have called a cab," Cannady said. "He could have went on the side of the road and slept."

She says hearing that Newkirk was driving drunk is difficult to accept, so is learning he had a prior DWI conviction in 1993.

"He knew what he was doing," Cannady said. "He made a choice to get behind the wheel. He made a choice. We just want justice. Justice is all we really want."

His family says they want to see harsher penalties for DWI offenders.

"The penalty needs to be five years and above for a DWI," Cannady said.

DWI laws in North Carolina provide for different levels of punishment based on each case. A second DWI conviction carries a mandatory jail sentence.

"If you can have the toughest sentence there is but if people are not responsible then nothing's going to work, because they'll do it and then they'll look for a loophole to get out of it," said Ollie Jeffers with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

She says the laws are there to keep impaired drivers off the roads, but it all comes down to people making the responsible decision.

"This is something that's preventable," Jeffers said. "This is 100 percent preventable. It's just so sad that a person would have to lose their life, before they're stopped."

Meanwhile, Newkirk remains at the Wake County Jail under a $540,000 bond. His next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 24.

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