Repeat drunk driver found guilty of murder in Brunswick County crash

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William Chandler McHenry (Photo: District Attorney's Office)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — The man who drove drunk and crashed into an SUV, killing the two people inside, will spend at least 31 years in prison.

A jury found William Chandler McHenry guilty of two counts of Second Degree Murder.

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On February 2, 2017, McHenry struck the Chevrolet Equinox driven by retired Colonel John Howard with his Ford Explorer on Kirby Road in Supply.

Howard was killed as a result of the crash, and his passenger, and girlfriend, Betty Lou Erdman, 87, died from her injuries ten days later at New Hanover Regional Medical Center.

Howard had been celebrating his 84th birthday on the day of the crash at his friends’ home on Kirby Road.



Moments after pulling out of the driveway of his friends’ home, Howard was struck by McHenry. McHenry, who was 24 at the time, crossed the center line striking the Chevy Equinox of Howard and Erdman head on.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol conducted the investigation into the crash.

McHenry was found to have a blood alcohol concentration of .15 as well as cocaine, opiates, and marijuana in his system.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol also conducted a collision reconstruction of the crash.

In addition to this evidence, the Brunswick County jury heard evidence that McHenry had been convicted of a DWI in November of 2011 in New Hanover County, and had been charged with a DWI in Brunswick County just 19 days prior to the February 2nd crash that killed both Howard and Erdman.

The jury deliberated for roughly 30 minutes before returning verdicts of guilty to two counts of Second Degree Murder, for which McHenry was charged.

After hearing victim impact statements from both Howard and Erdman’s children and grandchildren, the Hon. D. Jack Hooks entered a sentence of a minimum of 186 months for each count of Second Degree Murder. Meaning McHenry will spend a minimum of 31 years in state prison.

Assistants District Attorney Jacob Ward and Jenna Earley prosecuted the case on behalf of the State of North Carolina.

Earley and Ward stood before the jury on Monday afternoon arguing that the prior DWIs of the Defendant amounted to malice, which would allow the jury to convict McHenry of Second Degree Murder.

“Our office has, and will continue to make driving while impaired cases and fatalities a top priority,” Ward said in a news release. “Driving while impaired poses an enormous risk to the people of this county and state.”

Earley expressed gratitude to the highway patrol and the jury stating, “Today justice was served for Col. John Howard, Betty Lou Erdman, and their families. We deeply appreciate the North Carolina Highway Patrol for its diligent investigation of this collision and the jurors for their willingness to serve, listen, and deliberate.”