Richmond County Daily Journal
Two teens are in custody on first degree murder charges for allegedly killing a 23-year-old Spartanburg, S.C. woman who was hit with a rock while driving under an overpass bridge on the U.S. 74 Bypass Sunday night.
Alicia Thomas, the front seat passenger in the vehicle, was injured when the rock passed through the vehicle’s windshield at about 11:15 Sunday night. She died shortly after.
Cody Chavis, 16, of Liberty Drive in Rockingham, and a 15-year-old male are both being charged with the crime. The name of the juvenile can’t be released.
Sheriff Dale Furr called it one the most senseless acts he’s witnessed, or heard of, in more than 30 years of law enforcement.
“When they dropped that rock off the overpass, they didn’t care who it hit,” Furr said Monday afternoon. “It just happened to be this 23-year-old woman from Spartanburg, S.C. It is unbelievable that anyone could be that insensitive to human life.”
Chavis is in the Richmond County Jail under $400,000 bond and the juvenile is in the custody of the state at a juvenile facility
According to the North Carolina Highway Patrol, the vehicle was being driven by Henrietta Staggers, Thomas’s mother, also of Spartanburg. It was struck with a rock thrown from the overpass bridge on Old Cheraw Road approximately 1.5 miles south of Rockingham.
There were five people traveling in the car at the time. Only Thomas was injured.
According to arrest reports, the vehicle was a 1999 gold Honda Accord four-door sedan.
Furr said this is not the first incident in the county where rocks were thrown from an overpass.
He said there was another case in the past year when someone dropped a rock on a tractor trailer and it went through the roof. No one was injured in that incident.
“We pretty much knew that it had to be some young folks who lived in the area and were most likely on foot,” Furr explained the investigation leading to the two arrests. “Apparently, they went home and started talking about it, and one of the boys’ parents called us.”
Furr said he fought to get fencing added to all the county’s overpasses that are in close proximity to residential areas, and was successful in getting one overpass near Mizpah Road equipped with it.
“The (North Carolina Department of Transportation) said it would be too expensive to do them all,” Furr said.
He also said there is a cautionary tale for Richmond County parents in the tragedy.
“Even though this one subject is 16 years old, the law says that he is subject to all the laws of the land, just as an adult is,” Furr said. “Parents should be aware of where their 14-, 15-, 16-year-olds are at 11 o’clock at night. They were down there throwing rocks off the overpass when they probably should’ve been at home in bed.”
He described a rock that is dropped from an overpass as “just like a missile” when it hits an oncoming vehicle.
“Law enforcement has done its job here - let’s just hope the rest of the system works in this case,” Furr said.
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 32, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.