It’s going on two and a half years now since Tyler Stasko, who was 20, and grandmother Carlene Atkinson, who was 44 at the time, decided it would be a smashing idea to rev their cars and drag race at speeds over 100 mph down York Road/Highway 49 on April 4, 2009.
In the process, they are accused of causing a wreck that killed three people. Cynthia Furr, 45, was on the way to church with her two-year-old daughter Mackie Price. Both were killed, along with Hunter Holt, 13, a passenger in Stasko’s car. Witnesses at the scene say Atkinson and two other passengers got out of the car after the wreck, surveyed the scene, which included a dying but still alive two-year-old, and drove away without bothering to call police.
While Steve Price, who was Furr’s husband and Mackie’s father, struggles to put his life back together after the loss of his entire family, Stasko has been out on a mere $45,000 bond (you only have to put 10 percent down) for over two years awaiting trial.
Atkinson, who collected 19 speeding tickets in the decade proceeding the wreck, is on $900,000 bond and under house arrest, although she has been allowed to leave home for family events like her daughter’s graduation. She is barred from driving.
Because cases are backlogged, the wheels of justice in Mecklenburg County grind slowly. The district attorney’s office had planned a 2011 trial, but so far no final date is scheduled.
The good news is that there will be a trial, not a plea bargain. Both Stasko and Atkinson are each charged with three counts of second degree murder. The bad news is that second degree murder convictions carry very little actual prison time in NC, especially lower level second degree murder convictions.
At the lower end of the sentencing chart, you can do as little as three years for second degree murder. Neither of these two have prior criminal records, so to get them significant prison time, as in well over a decade, they’ll have to convict them both on all three charges AND get sentences in which they serve the time for each crime separately, a tall order in our court system.
New DA Andrew Murray and his staff have yet another opportunity here to cleanse the office of its inept reputation under former DA Peter Gilchrist and show that they can take on a high-profile case and win the whole enchilada.
The last time the office tried a high-profile case under Gilchrist, that of double cop-killer Demetrius Montgomery, they made a laughing stock of themselves before getting a lesser conviction.
But before we find out how this story ends, this case will have to hit the docket.