Last year, Sabrina Burdea’s attempted high-speed escape in a stolen car led to the death of a friend, police say.
Last month, her canceled appearance in Mecklenburg County court almost ended in a brawl.
On Thursday, the Charlotte woman with at least eight arrests during the past 20 months is scheduled to celebrate her 19th birthday standing before a judge – this time to enter a plea to charges stemming from the Dec. 14 car crash that killed Marcia Lawton.
Burdea’s hearing will be part of Homicide Day, the monthly administrative assembly line for the county’s active murder cases. Thursday’s docket includes appearances and procedural hearings for almost 30 defendants. Two-thirds of the accused were 25 or younger at the time of their arrests.
Four were teenagers. That Burdea is among them dates back to December, and a late-night report of a stolen car on Nations Ford Road.
An automated license-plate reader located the missing 2008 Ford Fusion as it passed by on inbound Sugar Creek Road. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police caught up to the car on North Tryon Street. Three teens were inside.
Officers called in a helicopter, then attempted to pull over the Ford at Atando Avenue and Interstate 77. The driver, identified by police as Burdea, refused to stop and accelerated north onto I-77. The CMPD cruiser did not give chase, police say, though the helicopter kept the speeding vehicle in sight.
Burdea, who had stolen-car and resisting arrest charges pending at the time, steered the car at high speed onto the curving ramp to Interstate 85. There, police say, she lost control. The Ford skidded across a grass expanse and struck several trees before rolling down an embankment.
Lawton, 18, died at the scene. Burdea and a 15-year-old in the backseat were hospitalized.
After she recovered, Burdea was charged with possession of a stolen vehicle, felony fleeing to elude arrest, reckless driving and involuntary manslaughter.
She was scheduled to enter a plea last month, an appearance that drew more than a dozen of her friends and supporters – all wearing matching purple T-shirts. Another group of spectators sat just across the middle aisle of the courtroom.
When Burdea’s hearing was unexpectedly canceled, both parties left their seats at the same time. In a matter of seconds, the courtroom business was partially drowned out by shouts and curses roaring in from the lobby. Deputies scrambled through the courtroom doors to separate the groups.
On Thursday, Burdea is scheduled to enter her plea at 2 p.m. It’s unclear what it will be. Her attorney, Michael Elliot, said he would not comment until after Burdea’s hearing.
Security in the courtroom is expected to be enhanced.
In other scheduled cases Thursday:
▪ Two men accused of torturing and murdering wealthy Charlotte businessman David Doyle in July 2015 are expected to enter pleas in the case. Doyle was found inside his Lake Wylie home, tied to a chair with parachute cord – beaten, burned, cut and dead. The former Wyoming car dealer had a penchant of bragging about the gold he was stashing in anticipation of the collapse of the U.S. government, friends and family say. Gould was his gardener and, according to attorney Dean Loven, the organizer of the plot to rob Doyle of his gold. Gould was said to be cooperating with authorities since his arrest. A third defendant, Blakeney’s brother Tardra Bouknight, has pleaded not guilty.
▪ Roger Best, 21, accused in the February robbery/murder of Walter “Wes” Scott, a 65-year-old Observer delivery man, is scheduled for what is known as a Rule 24 hearing. At that time, prosecutors will announce whether they will seek the death penalty. Due to legal challenges, capital murder cases in North Carolina have become extremely rare. Scott was found shot to death in uptown. Best, whom Scott wounded, has been arrested six times in Mecklenburg County and in prison twice.