WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A man charged with first-degree murder after causing a fatal wreck while running from law enforcement over the weekend will continue to be held without bond.
Thomas Willoughby Jr., 39, who is facing a litany of charges that include robbery with a dangerous weapon, made his first court appearance Monday morning.
Willoughby said very little during his two-and-a-half-minute appearance, answering with a “Yes, ma’am” when the judge asked if wanted a court-appointed attorney.
His next court appearance will be Nov. 14.
According to authorities, Willoughby was running from officials after an alleged armed robbery at the Walmart in Porters Neck Sunday morning when he crashed into Sean Alan Evans, 51, of Raleigh, on Wrightsville Avenue.
Evans was thrown from his Jeep and died at the scene.
The initial 911 call to report the armed robbery came in around 10 a.m.
Subsequent 911 calls came in of a vehicle driving erratically and at a high rate of speed down Military Cuttoff Road. Deputies eventually caught up to the vehicle at Oleander Drive and Floral Parkway, where Willoughby allegedly rammed a deputy’s cruiser before turning onto Wrightsville Avenue.
The chase continued down Wrightsville Avenue until Willoughby crashed into Evans’ Jeep Wrangler at the intersection with Country Club Drive.
Amy Miles, a passenger in Willoughby’s vehicle, was taken to New Hanover Regional Medical Center for treatment and will be charged with aiding and abetting DWI, and possession of drug paraphernalia, according to officials with the Wilmington Police Department.
District Attorney Ben David held a brief news conference following Willoughby’s Monday morning court appearance, explaining that his office will push forward with the first-degree murder charge saying Sean Evans and his family deserve justice.
“A totally innocent person was driving, like we all do on Sunday morning, and was struck and killed ... the only person responsible for the death of Sean Evans is Thomas Willoughby Jr., and he has been charged with first-degree murder and nothing less,” David said.
David also responded to what he said were community concerns he saw online about law enforcement’s pursuit of Willoughby. He said the reasons that determine if officers pursue a suspect vehicle are “fluid” and vary depending on the severity of the alleged crime.
“I ask this community what they expect of officers when there is a crime of violence and an impaired driver on the road and whether or not they have a duty to apprehend that individual,” David said. “Obviously, the nature of the call is greatly going to influence whether they call that chase off or continue to pursue it. It would have been a dereliction of duties and nothing less to stop that chase.”
David added that his office will not charge any officer involved in the chase, saying they were doing their job.
“There is absolutely nothing contemplated against any officer in the criminal courts because of this. In fact, I’ll answer the question some have of what these officers were doing after that armed robbery with again just two words, ‘their job.’ That’s what they were doing, and they were doing it well,” David said.
According to online records, Willoughby has been charged with:
- First-degree murder
- Robbery with a dangerous weapon
- Breaking or entering
- Driving while impaired
- Conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon
- Misdemeanor conspiracy
- Speeding to elude arrest with aggravating factors
- Hit and run serious injury or death
- Exceeding posted speed limit
- Reckless driving with wanton disregard
- Failure to stop for a steady red light (two counts)
- Larceny anti-theft device/remove/destroy/deactivate (two counts)