CAROLINA BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - An Illinois man visiting Carolina Beach for his 20th wedding anniversary in May was fatally struck by an alleged drunk driver while walking with his wife, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Erwin Ellis Williams, 74, is facing second-degree murder, DWI, and other charges in connection with the death of Jeffrey Matlick, 48, of Geneseo, Ill. on Sunday, May 31. Police say the collision happened around 12:30 a.m. in the 500 block of Carolina Beach Avenue.
Williams appeared in a New Hanover County courtroom Wednesday afternoon after being served the upgraded second-degree murder charge on Tuesday.
During the appearance, prosecutors told the judge that three witnesses saw Williams stumbling around the parking lot of a Carolina Beach bar minutes before the deadly collision and offered to help him. The parking lot encounter was caught on surveillance video.
“They walked up to him to try and assist him to see what’s going on with him and what they discover is he’s impaired… they offered to call him a ride, offered to call him a cab,” the prosecutor explained. “He starts getting belligerent with them, he starts getting angry, he starts growling at them. One of them even says he begins to lunge at them. He gets into his car, he begins to drive. He crashes into a dumpster and then backs into another vehicle before making his way out onto the road in front of the bar.”
Witnesses told police that they saw Williams strike Matlick about five blocks away on Carolina Beach Avenue. He fled the scene.
Darla Matlick, Jeffrey’s wife, virtually attended Wednesday’s court appearance. Prosecutors said she and Jeffrey were in town for their 20th wedding anniversary and were walking together, holding hands, before the crash.
Matlick’s sister and best friend were physically present in the courtroom.
Williams, who lives a short distance away from where the crash happened, was interviewed by Carolina Beach police at his home about 20 minutes after the fatal hit and run. Prosecutors said he was belligerent with the officers during the interview and refused a blood-alcohol test.
While taking him to jail, prosecutors said Williams asked, “is my windshield broken?” Officers told him it was, to which he responded, “I’m f-----.” Prosecutors run, Williams reportedly has shown no signs of remorse since his arrest.
“I think that is extremely telling with a history such as his, with at least four prior occasions that he’s been convicted of driving while impaired.” Some date back to the 80s,” prosecutors said.
Williams continued to drink even after he arrived home following the deadly crash and before officers got there, prosecutors said.
The judge eventually set his bond at a total of $700,000. If he makes bail, Williams was ordered to have no contact with the victim’s, operate a motor vehicle, and will be on electronic monitoring to ensure he does not consume alcohol.
His next court date is July 16.