Curtis Harper convicted on all counts in fatal hit-and-run crash

Curtis Harper convicted on all counts in fatal hit-and-run crash

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Curtis Harper cried after the verdicts were read. Curtis Harper cried after the verdicts were read.
Harper's bond was revoked and he was handcuffed and taken into custody in the courtroom. Harper's bond was revoked and he was handcuffed and taken into custody in the courtroom.
Jurors returned guilty verdicts on all charges. Jurors returned guilty verdicts on all charges.

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Curtis Harper was found guilty of all charges for his role in a 2012 hit-and-run accident that killed two people and an unborn child.

Jurors began deliberating around noon Tuesday and returned a verdict just after 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Chasity Thornell, her unborn child, and Nelzon Soto died when they were hit on Washington Pike in North Knoxville.

Harper was found guilty on all charges, including three counts of vehicular homicide by reckless conduct, three counts of vehicular homicide by intoxication, driving under the influence, tampering with evidence, reckless endangerment, and leaving the scene of an accident.

He was also assessed $124,000 in fines.

After the 10 verdicts were read, the judge brought up an additional charge of DUI second offense because in 2009 Harper was convicted of driving while intoxicated in North Carolina.

Since Harper was convicted in the Knoxville DUI charge, the jury then had to decide if Harper was guilty of DUI second offense.

The jury found him guilty of DUI second offense. This now makes Harper guilty of 11 charges. The conviction of DUI second offense increased his fine for DUI and DUI second offense to a total of $3,500.

After all 11 guilty verdicts were read, for the first time during this trial Curtis Harper showed emotion, breaking down in tears.

But as Harper and his family grieved, the victims' families breathed a sigh of relief.

Sue Renfro, Chasity's grandmother, was in the courtroom throughout the trial.

"I'm relieved. I think we got justice for Chasity and her baby girl, so relieved and for Mr. Soto also," said Renfro.

Elbia Soto, the widow of Nelzon Soto, said each day has been difficult since her husband's death, but said at least Wednesday justice was served.

"It's not easy to lose my husband and my kids lose their father. It's not easy to see my husband in the street, but I feel better today," said Soto.

Nelzon Soto's daughter was also pleased with the verdict, but said it doesn't ease the pain of losing her father.

"I was daddy's girl. He was just great," said Soto.

Harper's bond was revoked and he was handcuffed and taken into custody in the courtroom. His sentencing has been set for Wednesday, June 26 at 1 p.m. State attorneys say he could face up to 40 years in jail.

Chasity's mother Stephanie Thornell hopes the verdict will change other people's behavior for the better.

"I hope this gets the message out there that it's never safe to drink and drive, because one second can affect so many lives and rip families apart," said Thornell.

Assistant District Attorney Sarah Keith hopes the case will stop some people from drinking and driving. She hopes people choose to take a cab, slow down, avoid distractions while driving and make the right decisions.

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