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Jury convicts Stasko of involuntary manslaughter

Panel rejects murder charges; Stasko sentenced to up to 4 1/2 years

By Gary L. Wright
gwright@charlotteobserver.com

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A crying Tyler Stasko, convicted Tuesday of killing a woman and her 2-year-old daughter and a teenager in a wreck while apparently racing, turned to the families of his victims.

"I'm truly sorry for what I did," he said, his voice cracking. "I wish I could take that day back. But I know I can't. ... I'm sorry."

Moments later, Stasko, 23, was sentenced to at least three years and nine months in prison for the April 2009 deaths. The judge imposed a sentence of 15 months to 18 months for each of the three deaths.

As Stasko was escorted from the courtroom in handcuffs, his family and those of the victims sobbed.

Stasko's car slammed into a Mercedes, killing 45-year-old Cynthia Furr, a professor at Winthrop University, and her 2-year-old daughter, McAllister. Hunter Holt, a 13-year-old passenger in Stasko's car, also died.

The jury of seven men and five women deliberated about nine hours over two days before convicting Stasko of three counts of involuntary manslaughter. Prosecutors had sought second-degree murder convictions for each death.

Stasko, of Matthews, and Carlene Atkinson, 47, of Lake Wylie, are accused of racing at speeds of up to 100 mph on N.C. 49 when Stasko's Mitsubishi Eclipse smashed into Furr's Mercedes. Furr was entering the highway from the RiverPointe neighborhood near Lake Wylie.

Atkinson's black Chevrolet Camaro wasn't involved in the wreck, but she, too, is charged with three counts of second-degree murder. Her trial date has not been set.

Superior Court Judge James Morgan had ruled that jurors would be able to consider whether Stasko is guilty of second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter or misdemeanor death by vehicle.

Second-degree murder is punishable by a prison term ranging from about eight years to more than 30 years. The punishment for involuntary manslaughter ranges from probation to five years in prison. The maximum punishment for misdemeanor death by vehicle is 120 days' incarceration.

Jurors chose involuntary manslaughter.

After the verdicts were announced, Stasko's father hugged him. His mother and sister wept.

Before the sentencing, family members of the victims urged the judge to give Stasko the maximum punishment.

"Our loss was the maximum," Sharon Furr, Cynthia Furr's sister, told the judge. "And it's forever."

Steven Price, Cynthia Furr's husband, talked about his wife and daughter.

"Mackie was beautiful ... a good baby," Price said. "Full of energy - just like her mother. ... We put Mackie to bed every night in our arms. ... She was precious."

Daniel Holt called Hunter "a great son."

Holt also urged the judge to impose as harsh a punishment as he could on Stasko.

"I ask that within the law you give him the maximum time you can," he said.

Mecklenburg Assistant District Attorney Reed Hunt asked the judge to impose consecutive active prison sentences.

Defense attorney Deke Falls called the April 4, 2009 deadly wreck "a horrible case."

"This was never supposed to happen...," he told the judge. "He will never do this again.

"These convictions will go with him the rest of his life. He's going to think about this every day. He knows he screwed up. He's sorry."

Morgan imposed consecutive sentences that could keep Stasko behind bars for as long as 4 1/2 years.

Stasko did not have a criminal record that called for a harsher punishment.

Sharon Furr told reporters outside the courthouse that her family isn't satisfied with Stasko's punishment.

"We want everyone to know how very dark our world is without Cynthia and the baby," she said. "We want them to know how sad we are."

Falls, in an interview with the Observer, said he thought the jurors reached the appropriate verdicts.

"Tyler is not a murderer," Falls said. "He made a big mistake that will affect him and the families of the victims for the rest of their lives."

Wright: 704 358-5052
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