BURGAW, NC (WWAY) — A man has pleaded guilty in the deaths earlier this summer of a toddler and a newborn in a traffic accident in Hampstead.
“None of us have every seen something like this,” District Attorney Ben David said.
David said it was an emotional day inside a Pender County courtroom Wednesday. Matthew Deans, 29, entered the plea during his first appearance after a grand jury indicted him yesterday on two counts of involuntary manslaughter.
The charges stem from a May crash on US 17 where Deans rear-ended a vehicle that caused a chain-reaction crash that killed Dobbs Eddings. Dobbs’ mother, Hadley Eddings, was pregnant at the time and had an emergency C-section following the crash. A couple of days following the C-section her newborn son, Reed, also died.
As Deans faced his 27-32 months prison sentence, he also faced Hadley and Gentry Eddings.
“He became very emotional as did everyone,” David said.
After a sincere apology, David said the Eddings then faced him.
“We hope to be holding hands with you in heaven with our children,” the Eddings said.
Then they told Deans he survived for a reason.
“Everyone is united in their hope that this young man will do something positive with his life and live in a way that brings honor to these children,” David said.
David said the night before the crash Deans took Acetyl Fentanyl, a drug not listed on any listed schedule under the North Carolina Controlled Substances Act at the time. David said the state cannot prove that this impaired Deans the next day, but David and the Eddings hope this sends a bigger message.
“Drugs in any amount are dangerous and potentially deadly to the user or anyone on the road,” David said.
David says in this case, he hopes the Eddings compassion and forgiveness are a message to the world.
“The loss of Dobbs and Reed Eddings ripped the heart out of this community,” David said. “If everyone saw what we just did, I think you’d realize that in the midst of tragedy, there is also hope and despite the imperfect world we live in, there is also beauty in it and we witnessed that.”
David said on July 17 Governor Pat McCrory signed a law making the drug a Schedule I controlled substance. That will go into effect on December 1, 2015.
A judge sentenced Deans to 27-32 months in prison followed by 36 months probation. The plea was not a result of a deal with prosecutors. Deans said he did not want to drag anything out, so he opted not to negotiate and just let the judge determine the sentence.
The Eddings family attended the hearing.
Hadley Eddings, along with her husband, Gentry, and other family members, were in the area at a wedding. They were in several vehicles returning to the Charlotte area when the crash happened.