Driver ignored commands to stop before fatal wreck, police said

The car rolled down an embankment. A teenager was killed in the crash.
The car rolled down an embankment. A teenager was killed in the crash. WBTV

A teenage passenger in a stolen car died after police said the driver ignored their warnings to stop and crashed on a Charlotte highway exit ramp.

Marcia Lawton, 18, died in the wreck off the exit ramp from Interstate 77 northbound to I-85 southbound late Wednesday.

She was in the right front seat of a 2008 Ford Fusion driven by Sabrina Lynn Burdea, also 18.

Police obtained warrants charging Burdea with possession of a stolen vehicle, felony fleeing to elude arrest, reckless driving and involuntary manslaughter.

Burdea and a 15-year-old in the back seat were seriously injured. Police said they will take Burdea to the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office and serve the arrest warrants on her once she is released from the hospital.

The car, which has S.C. plates, was reported stolen at 11:07 p.m. from the 7800 block of Nations Ford Road, police said.

About 11:40 p.m., a license plate reader captured the Ford traveling inbound on Sugar Creek Road near Reagan Drive, toward North Tryon Street.

A license plate reader involves cameras mounted to police cars or structures that take hundreds of photos of license plates per minute. Characters in the photo of a plate are then compared with law enforcement databases of wanted vehicles.

Officers found the car on North Tryon Street near West Craighead Road. The officers followed the car and requested that a CMPD helicopter and canine unit respond before they took any enforcement action.

Once the helicopter arrived, officers initiated a traffic stop on Atando Avenue near I-77, police said. The driver refused to stop and accelerated onto I-77 northbound from Atando Avenue, CMPD said in a statement Thursday.

CMPD said its officers “disengaged from the traffic stop, and the helicopter kept the vehicle in sight. The Ford traveled north on I-77 at a high rate of speed and exited at Exit 13B for I-85 south.”

The driver lost control on the ramp, ran off the left side of the road and traveled though grass and into woods. The car hit several trees and rolled down an embankment, police said. The location of the crash was relayed by the helicopter unit to the patrol officers, who then responded to the site.

Medic and Charlotte firefighters also responded. Burdea and the 15-year-old were taken to Carolinas Medical Center. Medic pronounced Lawton dead at the scene.

Police said speed contributed to the wreck but that no driver impairment from alcohol or other drugs is suspected. No other vehicles were involved. Burdea was not wearing a seat belt, while her passengers had their seat belts on, police said.

Unrelated to the fatal wreck, Burdea has trials pending in Mecklenburg County on charges of possession of a stolen vehicle, conspiracy to commit felony larceny and resisting a public officer, court records show.

Police encourage anyone who witnessed the wreck or has information about the case to call CMPD Detective Andrew Oberer at 704-432-2169 or Crime Stoppers at (704) 334-1600.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak