A Charlotte pastor is once again speaking about forgiveness after a man pleaded guilty Wednesday to involuntary manslaughter for sparking a wreck that killed the family’s young toddler and resulted in the death of their newborn son.
Gentry Eddings, a pastor from Charlotte, was in court as 28-year-old Matthew Deans pleaded guilty to two counts of involuntary manslaughter for the deaths of Dobbs and Reed Eddings.
Deans was indicted on the charges Monday by a grand jury in Pender County.
The crash happened in late May along U.S. 17 in Pender County, near Wilmington.
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Eddings and his wife, Hadley, survived the crash, but their young son, 2-year-old Dobbs, was killed instantly. Hadley was eight months pregnant at the time and rushed to the hospital. She gave emergency birth to their son, Reed.
Reed died in the hospital three days later.
Ultimately, we would pray we see you in heaven. We want you there. Our sons would want you there.
Gentry Eddings, a pastor from Charlotte
Investigators say a box truck, driven by Deans, was approaching stopped traffic and failed to stop in time, resulting in a chain-reaction crash.
Deans appeared in Pender County Superior Court on Wednesday morning where he pleaded guilty to the charges. He was sentenced to between one and three years in prison. He will also serve three years probation after being released from prison.
Father offers forgiveness, again
In court, Gentry Eddings spoke to Deans saying, “We know it was not your intention for them to die. That’s important.”
“Mistakes were made. I sincerely forgive you,” Eddings said, saying he wants Deans to improve his life.
“Ultimately, we would pray we see you in heaven. We want you there,” Eddings said. “Our sons would want you there.”
In court, several mistakes made by Deans on the day of the accident were highlighted.
While it appeared Deans was sober at the time of the crash, toxicology results said otherwise. An extensive investigation revealed Deans was using drugs in the hours leading up to the incident.
Deans stated while in custody, about eight hours after the accident, that he was “hurting because he was experiencing withdrawal from heroin and other opiates that he had taken ‘two days’ prior,” according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Deans’ cellphone activity, however, indicated he had taken drugs hours, not days, before the wreck.
According to the District Attorney’s Office, Deans bought what he thought was heroin from a street dealer in Wilmington about nine hours before the fatal crash. It appears the drug he purchased was either a mixture of heroin and acetyl fentanyl or just acetyl fentanyl in its place, which is a relatively new threat that has been sweeping across North Carolina.
The toxicology report revealed heroin was not found in Deans’ blood system at the time of testing, but instead showed trace amounts of acetyl fentanyl and marijuana.
According to the DA’s Office, those substances are not “impairing per se and their presence standing alone is not sufficient to prove impairment under the laws that existed on May 23, 2015.” The highest charge supported under law at that time is involuntary manslaughter.
Gov. Pat McCrory signed a law July 17 to make acetyl fentanyl a Schedule I substance, meaning anyone found with it in their system is presumed to be impaired. The law will become effective Dec. 1.
In court, Deans admitted that he was looking down, eating a sandwich, at the time of the accident. He looked up and couldn’t brake in time. He was driving on less than five hours of sleep.