WINCHESTER — The suspected driver whose passenger was killed in a June 29 crash in Clear Brook has been charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter.
Jeremy Andrew Nichols, 22, of Winchester, was among those indicted by a Frederick County grand jury on Thursday. His passenger, Zachary Allan “Zach” Carter, 22, of Clear Brook, was thrown from the vehicle and died at the scene.
Carter was a father and Handley School School graduate who worked in manufacturing, according to his obituary, which described him as devoted to his son and grandparents.
Police said Nichols confessed to driving drunk.
The incident began about 2:25 a.m. when Frederick County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Nicholas Dempsey began following a 2011 Chrysler 300 on Martinsburg Pike (U.S. 11) for having an unlit vehicle registration tag light. The driver then made an illegal U-turn and sped away onto Hopewell Road, Dempsey wrote in a search warrant affidavit. A brief pursuit occurred, with the driver reaching up to 100 mph on Hopewell Road, which has a 45-mph speed limit. After traveling about 1.5 miles, the vehicle crashed in the road’s 200 block. Dempsey, who reached speeds of 90 mph, never caught up to the Chrysler, authorities said.
According to police, the driver lost control on a windy, downhill stretch of Hopewell Road, just past the DeHaven Drive intersection. The Chrysler struck a utility pole, went airborne and rolled over multiple times before striking a second pole about 50 yards west of the first pole.
Nichols at first said he was driving alone before admitting to having a passenger, police said. Nichols, who was found guilty in Warren General District Court on July 29 of driving while intoxicated on March 15, was initially charged in the Frederick County crash with eluding, reckless driving and driving while intoxicated. Information on his blood alcohol content after the crash was unavailable on Thursday.
A person doesn’t have to intend to kill someone to be charged with second-degree murder in Virginia. The felony homicide statute defines second-degree murder as when someone is killed accidentally while the defendant was “in the prosecution of some felonious act.”
Heather D. Enloe, an assistant county commonwealth’s attorney, said given the circumstances of Carter’s death, charging Nichols with second-degree murder charge was appropriate.
“We’ve charged him with what the law permits him to be charged with based on the evidence,” she said. “He has other felonious acts he’s committed and someone has died.”