01/31/12 — Driver to plead in deadly crash

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Driver to plead in deadly crash

By Gary Popp
Published in News on January 31, 2012 1:52 PM

Mark Aaron Pope of Fremont is expected to appear in Wayne County Superior Court on Wednesday morning to face charges in connection with the death of three passengers who were with him when he crashed his car in October 2010.

Pope, 18, was behind the wheel when the car he was driving was involved in an accident that killed Jacob Floars, 17; Ashley Haskins, 18; and Joshua Brantley, 25, all of Fremont.

Pope was charged with three counts of death by motor vehicle, and three counts of second-degree murder. Prosecutors have offered a plea deal that would dismiss the second-degree murder charges in exchange for a guilty plea to death by motor vehicle charges.

The case will be heard by Superior Court Judge Arnold Jones II.

With no prior criminal record, Pope's possible sentence ranges from 15 months intermediate punishment, which includes probation with added provisions that could include house arrest, random drug testing or a curfew, to 31 months in the prison for each of the three offenses.

If Pope accepts the plea deal, the severity of the sentence will be determined by Jones.

The crash happened near the intersection of N.C. 222 and Airport Road, about 3:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning.

Pope, who had recently turned 17 years old at the time of the accident, was seriously injured in the crash and was later airlifted from Wayne Memorial Hospital to Pitt Memorial Hospital to recover from serious injuries.

Weeks following the accident, toxicology reports confirmed Pope was had a blood alcohol level of .16, twice the legal limit, at the time of the accident. He also tested positive for marijuana.

Speed was a contributing factor in the single-car accident, the state Highway Patrol said. Trooper M.G. Conley has previously stated that the Honda Civic driven by Pope had reached a speed of nearly 100 miles per hour just prior to the crash.

According to investigators, Pope apparently lost control of the vehicle in a curve and the vehicle swerved across the center line several times before leaving the roadway and striking a large ditch. The car overturned several times before coming to a stop upside down.

Pope was the only person in the car wearing a seat belt, according to the accident report.