Man sentenced to at least 30 years for leading law enforcement on chase that ended in fatal wreck

Man sentenced to at least 30 years for leading law enforcement on chase that ended in fatal wreck
Published: May. 11, 2022 at 4:58 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A man was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in prison for leading law enforcement officers on a chase that ended in a wreck that killed a man in 2019.

Thomas Willoughby Jr. pleaded guilty Wednesday to multiple charges, including second-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon, in connection to the wreck that killed 51-year-old Sean Alan Evans.

According to authorities, Willoughby was fleeing from law enforcement after an armed robbery at the Walmart in Porters Neck on Oct. 27, 2019. Deputies caught up to Willoughby’s vehicle at Oleander Drive and Floral Parkway, where Willoughby 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. He was travelling nearly 90 miles an hour and ran a red light before hitting Evans. Evans was thrown from his vehicle, knocking the hard top off his Jeep. He landed on a nearby sidewalk, where he died from his injuries.

Willoughby had stolen a flatscreen TV from the porters neck Walmart less than half an hour before the accident. He had a woman in the car with him and authorities thought that she had been carjacked as part of his escape. The potential hostage situation is one reason why authorities were chasing Willoughby through Wilmington.

In court Wednesday, Willoughby apologized to Evans’ family saying that “a good man lost his life” because of his actions and he wants to do a better job with the rest of his life. Evans sister also spoke about what a wonderful person her brother was, and her unimaginable grief over losing him. She said she was surprised but glad to hear Willoughby’s apology.

“It did seem heartfelt. I was receptive. But it doesn’t bring Sean back. I’m glad he said it, you know, but nothing will bring him back,” LeSan Evans told WECT after Willoughby was sentenced.

“We’re pleased that he took responsibility and spared this family from having to go through a trial. We’re pleased that he’ll be out of our community for at least the next three decades. He is a habitual felon. He has many prior convictions mostly for drugs and driving offenses. And that those two things are the recipe for what brought us to this courtroom today,” District Attorney Ben David added.

Willoughby was impaired at the time of the collision on alcohol, methadone and marijuana. It turned out the woman in the car with Willoughby was not carjacked. She was his friend and accomplice. Amy Miles is set to go to court for her role in this crime June 13.

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