Grooms guilty of murder, apologizes to victims’ family

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Submitted: Wed, 03/28/2012 - 8:37pm
Updated: Thu, 03/29/2012 - 2:23pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Thomas Grooms will spend decades behind bars. It took jurors just a couple of hours to reach a verdict.

It’s been a long week for both the Doolittle and Grooms families and friends, but it did not take the jury from Onslow County long to reach a decision.

The jury of eight women and four men found Grooms guilty of two counts of second degree murder, two counts of felony death by motor vehicle, one count of reckless driving and one count of open container in the accident that killed Trey and David Doolittle last April. The judge sentenced Grooms to 24-30 years in jail for his crimes.

After the verdict, Grooms read a letter he had written to the Doolittle family. It was the first time during the trial he showed any type of emotion.

“What I did that night is not me,” he said. “It’s not what I do. It’s not the way I live my life. I feel so much regret, sorrow and guilt and responsibility, sadness and hurt for all the suffering that I’ve caused the Doolittle family and friends. I will punish myself for the rest of my life.”

Trey Doolittle’s mom Joy says she feels justice was served, but this still does not bring back her son or ex-husband David.

“Happy is not the word that would describe it,” she said. “I think relief just that it’s over, and for me to know that he’ll be off the streets for a long time is enough.”

We tried to talk to Grooms’s family and his attorney after the sentencing, but they did not want to comment. The attorney did say in court he would appeal the verdict.

Grooms said in his letter that he hopes the Doolittle family can someday forgive him, and that he will work every day to make sure people learn from his mistakes.


  • Just me says:

    Malice was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt in this case. 24-30 years is an ABSOLUTELY absurd sentence. Ray Carruth intentionally had his wife and unborn baby shot to death and only received 18 years. That ALONE is an absurdity. The justice system has been and never will be perfectly fair. I can only hope one day my faith can be restored in our system. Today I feel Thomas Grooms was unjustly charged with a crime that didn’t fit the circumstances. Felony death by vehicle, voluntary manslaughter, yes. Second degree murder? Absolutely not. An appellate court will hopefully find what myself and a lot of others agree, the charges didn’t fit the crime. My heart goes out to both sides of the case for they have each lost loved ones. May you all find peace within yourselves.

  • Sadi Duncan says:

    I’m not saying what he did was brilliant or right. But again it was not premeditated. Atleast the killer is being sentenced. What about little Kaylie Anthony her mother/ grandparents murdered her and both are free. What about Trayvon, his murderer Mr. Zimmerman is free to roam and he has a history for killing people. Justice will never be served correctly

  • Grand Ole Party says:

    It was premeditated, he planned to get in that car, and he planned to drive it. End of story. As for Zimmerman, who else did he kill? I can’t wait to hear this.

  • anne says:

    It depends on what you call premeditated. He chose to take drugs and drink and then get in his car to drive. He didn’t feel like he was impaired – well yes he was. He was so impaired, he couldn’t make a rational decision. He chose to drive and 2 people died from it. No matter how much he apologizes, they cannot come back. He will have his life in jail and family may visit him and talk to him, but all the family have left is 2 gravesites to visit and their family members won’t be able to talk back to them.

    Getting behind the wheel of a high powered engine while under the influence is the same as pulling the trigger of a loaded gun. No excuse will suffice for what he done. Hopefully, while he is in jail, he will be able to look at what he did and perhaps ask the Lord for forgivness and begin his own healing.

    It never ceases to amaze me that when a defendant gets to talk to the court, they always say that they wish they hadn’t done it and if they could trade places, they would. You know darn well you can’t take it back and those words are just stupid.

  • Das Weibstück says:

    Gotta love a fast jury.

  • guesty says:

    It should be considered premeditated murder and he should be sentenced to death. This whole incident was completely preventable if only this tool didn’t drive drunk.

    And add this gem from Grooms: “the worst decision of my life.”

    Yea, it is all about you buddy boy.

  • Rot! says:

    Exactly my point on previous posts. This is a typical criminal who’s only regret is getting caught because now his life is ruined. His decision to drive was the worst of the Doolittle’s lives!

  • Hydro1974 says:

    Unfortunately you can’t find someone guilty of murder if they were drunk or drugged – second degree is as high as you can go. The altered mental state means the defendant can’t legally reach the level of “malice aforethought” required to get a first degree conviction.

  • Guest327 says:

    If driving drunk or impaired is a felony, it was my understanding that if you killed someone while committing a felony, you could be charged with first degree murder in NC. Maybe WWAY newsteam can comment on this???

  • ChefnSurf says:

    Grooms got what he deserved and should be sentenced to the full extent of the law as it relates to Murder in the Second Degree. By no stretch of the imagination could this ever legally be considered premeditated murder.

    Seems like far too many posters are all for this “Off with his head” kind of thing. If you recall, they tried that during the French revolution and it got way out of control. Too many aspects of our civilization are already out of control without adding this kind of crap to the mix.

  • Believe it or not says:

    River Road gives drivers only two choices at average speeds of 58 miles per hour and lane widths that feel less than 8 feet wide. Choice 1 is to move into oncoming traffic by crossing the yellow center line or Choice 2 is hug the white line next to bicyclists. This impaired defendant is not the first to kill a bicyclist on River Road. What is the cost of keeping him in prison for 3 decades and who pays for that? Would a gps ankle bracelet and a decade of probation not have accomplished the same thing to keep him off the roads? The state will continue to allow this to be called a safe Bike lane.Case closed.Who is really the unconscienable persons here? Rest in peace Trey Doolittle, the state really looks out for bicyclists after they are gone.

  • Guesttenheimer says:

    But I wonder what the outcome would have been if the Doolittles deaths were caused by a teen texting and being distracted, not a drunk?

  • Hydro1974 says:

    Vehicular manslaughter – third degree murder. Death caused my negligence.

  • Guest1946 says:

    Possibly the same, as texting and driving has been outlawed. However, just talking on the cell is still legal, so then the result would probably be involuntary manslaughter. On a side note, all cell phone use while driving is soon to be illegal in Chapel Hill.

  • Wilmington217 says:

    While this is good news to the majority of us, I can’t help but feel this is still very little closure for the Doolittle Family, so I will continue to keep them in my prayers and you Mr.Grooms, well ultimately God will rule on that.

  • Guest1971 says:

    You should be praying for Mr. Grooms also. He made a terrible mistake and will regret what he did for the rest of his life. The Doolittles will never have closure in their life until they can forgive.

  • Guest4561 says:

    EXACTLY MISDEMEANOR!!!…….all the people who are arrested and charged…..and eventually found guilty ….it is just a slap on the wrist……Just like the “ex” New Hanover County Sheriff Deputy that was a LT. with the sheriffs department……he was arrested and charged (not convicted)with a DUI during a CLICK IT OR TICKET/ BOOZE IT AND LOSE IT ROADBLOCK….yet he has had his case continued for over 7 months now….and believe it or not… because he resigned his postion with the New Hanover County Sheriffs Department he will still be allowed to keep his LEO credentials…..go figure that one out. And socializing with the judicial staff….don’t think he has anything to worry about when it comes to getting the charges dismissed. No wonder so many people have been arrested, and convicted of DUI’s….the penalties aren’t that harsh for them…..the VICTIMS on the otherhand, and the families of the victims are a whole different story. If you drink and drive, or you are under the influence of ANY controlled or non controlled substance the choice to drive can be life altering for everyone.

  • Guest2020 says:

    In North Carolina DWI is still a misdemeanor.

  • Katie Harden says:

    It’s my understanding that the prosecution brought forward the murder charges against Mr Grooms because he had been warned previously by a “girlfriend” that his drinking and driving was unsafe and could possibly cause harm to himself or others. A witness named Thema Schumaker, who is mentioned in previous stories about the trial, testified that she made him pull over (on River Road) because he was driving poorly after they had drinks downtown and decided to drive home to Carolina Beach. DA Ben David argued that just because Grooms’s record was clean did not mean he was not warned before the accident that killed the Doolittles. David says this justified the murder charge because Grooms disregarded previous warning. — Hope this provides some clarification. I will also try to ask DA Ben David about your question specifically.

  • Guest2020 says:

    I agree. We need tougher laws.

  • Gloria says:

    In response to the comment “Mr. Grooms did not intend to kill two people that day!” Most people who kill others never “intend” to but their carelessness does. Getting behind the wheel is serious business. My own son was killed while cycling by a distracted driver who claimed she was looking in the backseat of her car (instead of where she was driving). She killed my son. Did she ‘intend’ to? I certainly hope not! But she did due to not being responsible behind the wheel, not considering the death she could cause to a human being and the pain to a family. You stated “If it were my family that was killed”…I don’t believe anyone can honestly say what they would do or how they would feel until they are in that position and walk in those shoes themselves. They think they do and think and say how they would respond. Often times they eat some of those spoken words. It’s always easy to tell others what you’d do or how you’d feel. It’s entirely different when you’re experiencing it and not just giving an opinion or advice. I hope you are never put in that situation. It’s very painful to have someone you love killed.

  • Guest1234 says:

    Malice is a legal term referring to a party’s intention to do injury to another party. Mr. Grooms did not intend to kill two people that day! I do not think justice was served and that he was sentenced to something that he did not do. Yes he made a poor decision and he should pay for what he did, but in no way did he commit murder in the 2nd degree. 2nd degree murder:Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide (such as manslaughter). I would say this even if it were my family that was killed in such a tragic accident. Mr. Grooms did not deserve 2nd degree murder.

  • Guest19712 says:

    I do not believe he deserved 2nd degree murder either. Justice def was not served. I am sorry these people died and the family is suffering a terrible loss.

  • Guest2020 says:

    In North Carolina if a person is driving while impaired and kills someone, he can be charged with second degree murder if the manner of his driving shows a depraved indifference to human life. I do believe that Mr. Grooms’ failure to brake either before or after the impact would fit into this definition. The charges were correct. The verdict was correct. The sentence is just.

  • Guest123 says:

    I have had a loved one killed by a repeat offender drunk driver and I say why wait until a drunk kills someone. I think all drunk drivers should be sent to jail on the spot for at least a couple days–first offense. Second offense much longer incarceration since they have shown they have no regard for the law.
    No logic in waiting until they kill a person before really punishing them.
    Every license check set up & always on the news tells us of 10 or so charged with driving under the influence yet they are let go home to find a slick lawyer who gets them off with a hand slap. It is against the law to drive impaired so start locking them up the instant they are caught breaking the law and some of them may stop leaving their house etc and driving drunk until they kill our loved ones!
    and, YES—They ARE murderers!

  • Gloria says:

    THANK YOU!!!!! for that comment! My son was killed, it does seem different when they are a cyclists. You said everything I wanted to say..but better. Thank you!

  • RSimmons says:

    20 years in prison is a long time for an old man. That is pretty much a death sentence for him. Justice has been served.

  • Guest1234 says:

    Absolutely ridiculous he got that much time. He wasn’t intentionally trying to kill them. He just had an error in judgement

  • taxpayer says:

    he was charged and convicted of 2nd degree murder. No premeditation involved.

  • local 1 says:

    Sentence was fair—he killed two people and made the decision to drink and drive. Something has to be done about the drunks killing and maming people—at least he will not do it again for at least 20 years.

  • Guest5229 says:

    Are you kidding me??? He was drunk and high behind the wheel and killed 2 people….he got what he deserved! It was his choice to drive, thank god you were not on the jury!!

  • GuestReality says:

    An error in judgement is wearing a blue sock and a black sock; or paying your phone bill instead of your light bill. It’s NOT getting in a vehicle and driving drunk, not having slept in 24 hours, and snorting bath salts just a few hours prior.

    I agree he didn’t intentionally set out to kill two people, but he had to know his actions were illegal and that someone could be hurt by his decision if he got behind the wheel of a car. He chose to do it anyway. Everybody over the age of 10 knows not to drive drunk and drive under the influence of stimulants.

    Because of his actions, the Doolittle family will never see two of their loved ones ever again. I feel sorry for the Grooms family, but at least they can go see Mr. Grooms in prison, if they get to missing him. The Doolittle’s will never have that option with their loved ones.

  • Guest112211 says:

    Are you trying to piss people off with your comment? If so, it worked!! He chose to put both alcohol and drugs in his system and then drive. That is not an accident that is an incident waiting to occur. I hope and pray that nothing like this tragedy evers falls upon you or your family, but if it does happen to a family member please make a posting then. I will remember you Guest 1234! Just being curious, how much time do you think he should have gotten? He will never be able to hurt or kill another human being again. That is justice served.

  • nichole tryer says:

    Seriously. Ridiculous. I’ll tell you what is ridiculous that there is a boy and his father can’t live the rest of their lives and were killed just for riding their bikes together he deserves 30 years I actually think he should be in jail longer he made the decsion to drink drunk as he’ll and drive sorry doesn’t make anything better he know he deserves this I am sure if it was your family who got killed in that accident you wouldn’t be bitching about how much time he gets you must pay for your actions he took two lives and tried to flee the scene you must have No heart or either are just as bad as he is he I hope lives the rest of his life in jail

  • Grand Ole Party says:

    He intentionally drank, he intentionally used drugs, and he intentionally drove. Now he has been intentionally sentenced. You liberal sheep always cry out for the perps. Give it a rest already.

  • Cyclist says:

    Finally, Finally someone got what was coming to them for KILLING two people on bikes. Why is it that it seems to be ok to murder someone on a bicycle? Grooms did indeed murder these two people by using two very common weapons, a vehicle and alcohol. Deadly combination, which Mr. Grooms proved to us all.

    Now that it is over, what is left for the families? Memories of a child and man who will never come back, a child who will never reach his full potential, never kiss his bride, or hold his children. A man who will never see his first grandchild or enjoy his old age with the woman he loved. Mr. Grooms chose to take two lifes that day and for that he received his conviction.

    My hope is that this becomes the rule of law and anyone who choses to drink and drive and cause harm to others are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

  • Das Weibstück says:

    Look at it this way, he has a place to live now. He will probably die in prison. He made his bed.

  • thatsjustice says:

    He chose to get behind the wheel, drunk and drugged, and clearly did not give a damn that he might end up killing someone. It’s a classic case of depraved indifference, and justifies the murder rap. The DA’s office is now batting .500 against drivers who get high and kill cyclists.

  • Guest1 says:

    You need to read the law. You are judging on emotion not the law. Same as the Jury.

  • Guest1234 says:

    I was not saying let him go free I was stating that 2nd degree MURDER was not road upon which to travel. I agree he needs to serve time and pay for what he did however he did not committ murder with an intent to kill. It was a very tragic accident with a wrong choice being made. Sounds to me he was seriously depressed and looking for comfort. Vehicular Manslauder, involuntary Manslauder there were other charges than placing the label MURDER. He did wrong but he’s not a murderer.

  • Guest314 says:

    @Guest 1234

    “was not road upon which to travel”

  • Guest1234 says:

    No where did it say he tried to leave the scene.

  • Rot! says:

    If you had been following this trial then you would know that he never even depressed his brakes. He ploughed into the Doolittles and continued to drive down river road. The only reason he stopped because an eye witness watched the whole thing in his rear view mirror and forced Grooms to pull over. Meanwhile, David was dead and Trey was fighting for his life and guess what Grooms was doing…yep, sitting in his car in a stupor. Quite a guy I tell you. Rot Grooms!

  • trymarketstreet says:

    You want lanes that are actually 9 feet wide? That’s Market Street between 17th and the YMCA. The lanes on River Road give you 10, if not 11 feet, and another 3 feet for the bike lane. If that’s not enough room for you, you’re GOING TOO FAST! Exceeding the speed limit without consequence is not a birthright.

  • Guest2020 says:

    This is not simply a mistake. This man chose to drink alcohol. He chose to do drugs. He chose to get behind the wheel of the car. As a result of the choices he made, two people are dead.

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