A Forsyth County jury convicted a Winston-Salem man on Monday for causing a crash on Peters Creek Parkway that killed a motorcyclist and then leaving the scene.
The jury found Tyrone Vincent Dillard, 31, of Whitfield Drive, guilty of felony hit and run, causing serious injury or death; misdemeanor death by motor vehicle, felony possession of cocaine and the infraction of failure to yield to a left turn. He also had previously pleaded guilty to driving while license revoked.
Most of the charges were in connection to an August 2018 crash that killed Nathan Gray Hayes, 33, of Advance.
Judge David Hall of Forsyth Superior Court sentenced Dillard to serve two to three years in prison on most of the charges directly connected to the crash. Hall handed down a separate suspended sentence of six months to one year and five months in prison on the cocaine charge. He placed Dillard on three years of supervised probation.
The crash happened just before 11 p.m. Aug. 23, 2018. According to Winston-Salem police and court documents, Hayes was driving his black 2007 Honda Shadow motorcycle north on Peters Creek Parkway. Dillard was driving south on Peters Creek Parkway in a red 2008 Toyota Prius.
Police said Dillard got into the left lane to turn into the Parkway Plaza Shopping Center in the 1200 block of Silas Creek Parkway when his car crashed into Hayes’ motorcycle. The collision threw Hayes 50 feet from the area of impact, police said. Hayes died from blunt-force injuries on Aug. 26, 2018 at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
Dillard was not charged with felony death by motor vehicle because there was no evidence that he was impaired at the time of the crash.
In closing arguments on Friday, Aaron Berlin, the regional traffic prosecutor for the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys, said the impact caused the airbag in Dillard’s car to deploy. After the crash, paramedics told Dillard to stay in the car, but Dillard paced back and forth before walking away. His attorneys argued that the car was in the roadway and that Dillard thought it was dangerous to get back in the car.
According to search warrants, Winston-Salem police found Dillard 850 feet away from the crash scene on his phone.
Winston-Salem police later found 2.6 grams of cocaine on the floorboard of the car Dillard was driving, Berlin said. Berlin also played recordings of phone calls Dillard made while awaiting trial in Forsyth County Jail.
Berlin alleged that in those calls, Dillard was alluding to additional amounts of cocaine that he hid in bushes near the crash site. Berlin contended that Dillard only cared about himself and making sure his drugs were hidden, and he was not concerned about Hayes.
But Artrese Ziglar, one of Dillard’s attorneys, argued that while Hayes’ death is a tragedy, not all tragedies are crimes. (Jennifer Meyer was Dillard’s other attorney). Dillard didn’t run away from the crime scene and was located within 30 seconds after police spotted him, she said.
Also, Ziglar said, it makes no sense for Dillard to try to stash away cocaine in bushes while leaving another amount of cocaine in the car where it was easily found by police.
She also pointed to statements from Dillard in which he said Hayes seemed to come out of nowhere. Witnesses told police that Hayes was driving anywhere from 30 mph to 60 mph in a 45-mph zone.
The jury started deliberating about 4 p.m. Friday and came back Monday morning before delivering a verdict around 11 a.m.
Dillard apologized to Hayes’ family.
Hall said it is clear that Dillard didn’t set out to kill Hayes when he got behind the wheel of the car, but his actions after the crash showed he didn’t place Hayes’ life at the highest priority.
“I don’t find that you had no regard for (Hayes’ life), but you were putting yourself at No. 1,” he said.