Witness testimony underway in Curtis Harper trial

Witness testimony underway in Curtis Harper trial

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"Ms. Thornell embraced Mr. Soto in gratitude and that's when Curtis Harper was driving way too fast and driving impaired then crashed into the individuals," said Assistant District Attorney Sarah Keith. "Ms. Thornell embraced Mr. Soto in gratitude and that's when Curtis Harper was driving way too fast and driving impaired then crashed into the individuals," said Assistant District Attorney Sarah Keith.
Two Knoxville police officers also took the stand saying the scene was shocking, the worst they had ever seen. Two Knoxville police officers also took the stand saying the scene was shocking, the worst they had ever seen.
Curtis Harper looks on during court proceedings. Curtis Harper looks on during court proceedings.

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A jury has been seated in the trial for a Knoxville man accused in a triple fatal hit and run.

Curtis Harper faces driving under the influence and vehicular homicide charges in the case. He's accused of hitting and killing Chasity Thornell and Nelzon Soto along Washington Pike last May. Thornell's unborn child is named as the third victim.

It was a very emotional day in the courtroom Tuesday. Many tears were shed from the victims' families.

Curtis Harper showed no emotion as opening statements were made and witnesses took the stand to give their testimony.

Photos of Chasity Thornell and Nelzon Soto were projected on the wall as Assistant District Attorney Sarah Keith made her opening statements.

She said on May 30 Curtis Harper had been drinking for several hours before the crash.

"Ms. Thornell embraced Mr. Soto in gratitude and that's when Curtis Harper was driving way too fast and driving impaired then crashed into the individuals," said Keith.

According to Keith, Sarah Tinder and Chasity ran out of gas on Washington Pike. Soto gave them gas.

As Thornell hugged Soto in a show of gratitude, Harper hit them and continued driving, later removing the damaged part of the car and hosing the blood off.

"He then directed a friend to get in his vehicle and get evidence of alcohol out, beer cans, beer cartons, beer caps, that kind of thing," said Keith.

But Harper's attorney says Harper had been drinking but wasn't drunk. Price say Harper was also driving the speed limit but couldn't avoid the crash.

"Soto and Chasity were standing in the middle of the road, almost on the center line," said Keith.

Price says it was an unavoidable accident not to the degree of criminal liability.

Harper's attorney says his client was in the wrong for leaving the scene of the accident but was scared and had never been through anything like it before.

People who heard the crash who lived on Washington Pike took the stand describing the scene.

Two Knoxville police officers also took the stand saying the scene was shocking, the worst they had ever seen.

More of the state's witnesses will be called to the stand Wednesday morning.

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