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Truck driver found guilty after 2 children struck, killed

A jury on Friday found a delivery truck driver guilty in a 2012 wreck that killed two young brothers in west Charlotte – an incident that led to a push for more sidewalks in the city.

Kadrien Pendergrass, 5, was pushing his 1-year-old brother, Jeremy Brewton, on a stretch of West Tyvola Road at Shady Lane without sidewalks.

The boys’ father was walking beside them, pushing another stroller with his infant son.

Dirk Jerome Brown, a delivery truck driver, struck them from behind as he turned right onto West Tyvola Road.

The boys’ deaths led to an outcry from residents and brought attention to gaps in the city’s sidewalk network. A month after they were killed, the City Council voted to jump-start sidewalks for West Tyvola and three other projects. But more than 14 months after the accident, the West Tyvola sidewalk hasn’t been built yet.

After several hours of deliberation Friday, the jury convicted Brown on two counts of misdemeanor death by vehicle. He will spend 120 days in jail. He faced a possible combined sentence of up to 150 days on the two counts against him.

“The whole thing is a tragedy,” said prosecutor Bruce Lillie. “When you lose two young children like that, that’s really where your focus always is.”

Brown testified Thursday he looked left, right and checked his mirrors when he pulled up to the intersection of West Tyvola Road and Shady Lane He said he didn’t see the boys.

Attempts to reach Brown’s defense attorney Friday were unsuccessful.

Relatives of the boys wept as the judge read the guilty verdicts, WCNC-TV reported. They told the Observer’s news partner the sentence was not justice for the death of their boys and that Brown never apologized to the family.

The crash

Just as they did every morning, on Feb. 22, 2012, the young brothers and their father were making the quarter-mile walk from their west Charlotte home to their day care center.

As they reached a part of West Tyvola that had no sidewalks and a 35 mph speed limit, the boys were hit by a Sears truck. At the time of the crash, Brown and a co-worker had been on their way to Rock Hill to make a delivery for Sears.

During his testimony, Brown said he wasn’t in a rush or on the phone.

He told the jurors he is remorseful and had inquired about the boys as he was being interviewed at Charlotte-Mecklenburg police headquarters.

“I’ve got kids of my own,” said Brown, a father of two. “I wouldn’t want to see kids like that.”

Crash witness Dabide Ayude, an armored truck driver, testified that the Sears truck didn’t use all of the space on the road when it turned near where the family of four was walking. “The back of the tire, his right tire, hit the kids and flipped the stroller over and hit the dad in the leg,” Ayude told jurors. “And (the dad) started shouting.

“He was shouting, ‘He hit my kids. He killed my kids.’ ”

The aftermath

A police investigator had testified he was unable to reconstruct exactly what caused the crash. And Brown’s attorney, Mark Foster, had raised questions about whether the pedestrians or their father had at least some responsibility to stay out of the busy road.

The boys’ death sparked anger because of the lack of a sidewalk on that portion of West Tyvola, a popular cut-through for walkers to get to businesses or to the public library on West Boulevard.

Two school bus stops were also near the crash site.

A month after the boys’ deaths, Charlotte City Council approved money for a sidewalk along the stretch. But that sidewalk hasn’t been built yet, said prosecutor Ben Royster, who visited the road last week in preparation for the case.

After the guilty verdict was read Friday, the case moved directly to sentencing.

Prosecutors had sought all along a jail sentence for Brown, while his defense attorneys asked the judge to consider that Brown had no prior criminal convictions.

Royster said he was pleased with the verdict and sentencing. “This has been a very stressful and trying process for the family,” he said. “Reliving this through the trial, it’s been difficult for them.”

Steele: 704-358-5067 on Twitter: @steelecs
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