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Lebanon 19-year-old charged in Smoky Mountains deaths
Feb 02, 2006 12:00 am
January 26, 2006
A Lebanon teenager will face five counts of second degree murder in federal court stemming from an auto accident in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which claimed the lives of five Virginia residents.
According to documents filed in the U.S. District Court in Knoxville on Monday, Jonathan Mathew Hall, 19, of Lebanon, and Steven A. Williams, 20, of Murfreesboro are charged in a five-count indictment which states that "each aided and abetted and induced by the other, with malice aforethought, whereas they did unlawfully kill five human beings." They will appear in court March 29.
The indictment stemmed from an accident on March 26, 2005 when Hall and Williams were allegedly drag racing on U.S. Highway 441 inside the national park.
"Both were driving in a reckless manner and with extreme disregard for human life, in that they were operating their motor vehicles at an extremely high rate of speed and were drag racing," the indictment reads.
Under federal statutes, both Hall and Williams could face a term of imprisonment — up to life — if convicted.
A statement released by officials with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Wednesday said Hall was driving a 1991 Honda Accord when he crashed "t-bone style" into a 1997 Chrysler carrying five tourists from Virginia. Williams, who was driving a 1996 Nissan 240SX, managed to swerve around the tourists' car and "kept going," the statement read.
Killed in the crash were Myra Nelson, 64; her husband, George Nelson, 80; Myra Nelson's mother, Audrey Fentress, 84; Anthony Dietz, 70, and his wife, Betty Dietz. The Nelson and Fentress families were from Chesapeake, Va., and the Dietz family was from Virginia Beach.
Hall, who was transported to the University of Tennessee Medical Center via helicopter following the crash, was arrested in Lebanon earlier this month by U.S. Marshals. A detention hearing was held on Jan. 10 in Nashville by U.S. Magistrate Joe Brown in U.S. District Court, and Hall is currently being held without bond.
Williams reportedly turned himself in on Jan. 23 and is free on bond.
"Speeding is a very serious problem on the Spur (Hwy. 441) and drag racing, in particular, creates a very hazardous environment, endangering the lives of not only those breaking law but also innocent motorists such as in this case," a statement issued Wednesday by Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson read. "Motor vehicle accidents are by far the largest source of fatalities in the park."
Staff Writer Brian Harville can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 16 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.