Suspect charged in Knoxville hit-and-run deaths

Suspect charged in Knoxville hit-and-run deaths

Curtis Scott Harper in custody Curtis Scott Harper in custody
Curtis Scott Harper (source: Knox County Sheriff's Office) Curtis Scott Harper (source: Knox County Sheriff's Office)

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The suspect in last week's Knoxville hit-and-run accident that killed a man and a pregnant woman was taken into custody Wednesday. He faces several charges, including three counts of vehicular homicide.

Curtis Scott Harper, 22, of Franklin, just graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in plant sciences. He's accused of striking and killing Nelson A. Soto, 45, and Chasity E. Thornell, 24, early Wednesday as he drove down Washington Pike. 

Harper is charged in an 11-count presentment with: three counts of vehicular homicide, three counts of vehicular homicide by intoxication, one count of driving under the influence, one count of tampering with evidence, one count of reckless endangerment, one count of leaving the scene of an accident and one count DUI second offense.

The Knox County Grand Jury handed up the presentment after police presented evidence in the case on Wednesday afternoon.

Harper turned himself in to police investigators at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. He was processed at the Knox County Detention Facility on a $300,000 bond.

When the victims were hit, Soto was attempting to help Thornell after she ran out of gas on Washington Pike. They both died at the scene.

Thornell's unborn child was also killed. The District Attorney General's Office has already said the unborn baby will be included in the case as a third victim.

Police say Harper fled the scene after hitting Soto and Thornell with his 2004 Ford Explorer. 

In a court affidavit filed by police, a witness says Harper admitted to being the driver in a hit-and-run accident and that he had been drinking.

Harper said it was now time "to go on a trip," Knoxville Police Department Investigator Patty Tipton says the witness told police.

Police obtained the search warrant after impounding Harper's SUV in order to process it for evidence. It has been retrieved from a residence on Gratz Street.

The affidavit says fingerprints, skin, blood, hair, fragments of glass, and records from the SUV's GPS would be obtained in the search for evidence.

Harper's attorney, Jim Price, of Nashville, says his client has been cooperating with police and plans to plead not guilty.

Harper was arrested in January 2011 in Knox County on a possession of drug paraphernalia charge.

Harper was also arrested in April 2008 in Franklin on a charge of theft under $500. He was accused of shoplifting a pack of Red Bull from a Kroger store. The police report says the drinks were recovered.

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