The Christiansburg man who pled guilty to murder in May to the 2014 traffic death of his son in Cana has fired his original lawyer and has now asked for a motion to possibly withdraw his guilty plea.
Christopher Dean Woolwine, 30, pled guilty in Carroll County Circuit Court on May 26 to second-degree murder and felony hit and run after a wreck that occurred on Halloween Night 2014 in Cana. Woolwine was the operator of a 2000 Dodge van that was traveling north on Highway 52, near Lancaster Drive, just north of the North Carolina state line.
Woolwine’s vehicle initially struck another vehicle in the rear while traveling north, then Woolwine turned and fled the scene southbound when his vehicle ran off the right side of the road, struck a tree and overturned back into the roadway approximately one-tenth of a mile south of the original crash. Woolwine and his 4-year-old son, Cole, were injured in the crash, and the child later died at Wake Forest Baptist Trauma Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. Between the two charges, Woolwine faces up to 50 years in prison and a fine of up to $102,500.
Woolwine appeared in Carroll County Circuit Court on Thursday for what was originally scheduled as his sentencing hearing. However, he appeared in the same court two days earlier after having a falling out with his original attorney, Brandon Boyles. He was escorted Thursday by his new defense attorney, Chip DeHart.
“The court approved me on Tuesday,” DeHart told Judge Brett Geisler. “I went to jail and he told me he wanted to withdraw his plea of guilty and seek a trial. We are asking it to be set for that motion.”
Geisler reminded DeHart that Woolwine had around been found guilty by the court.
“He wishes to withdraw his plea,” DeHart said.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Nathan H. Lyons said with all due respect, the typical range between a finding of guilt and sentencing is 60 days. Woolwine has now had more than 90 days to file any motions he would like prior to sentencing.
Geisler said the court needed to allow DeHart the opportunity to speak to his client. He then set a date of Sept. 22 at 2 p.m. for Woolwine to file any motions at that time. If Woolwine’s motion is denied, Lyons said the Commonwealth would like to then set a separate date for sentencing because “there are several people from out-of-state who would like to attend.” Geisler said if the motion is denied, a later sentencing date could be scheduled.
During the May hearing in which Woolwine pled guilty, Lyons told the court Woolwine was traveling northbound on Oct. 31, 2014 on U.S. 52 near the Cana Rescue Squad when he approached at a high rate of speed and hit a vehicle operated by Brian Warren. Warren’s vehicle was also occupied by his fiancé, Crystal Crotts, and two children.
Lyons said a video from the Cana Rescue Squad shows Warren’s vehicle slowing to a stop with his signal on to turn into the rescue squad building.
“The defendant comes in at a high rate, slams the brakes, hits Mr. Warren’s vehicle, causing the truck to go off the road and the van to spin around,” Lyons said at the time. “He turned and began to head south at a high rate of speed, ran off the surface of the road, hit a tree, causing the van to overturn back onto the road.”
Lyons said Warren and his passengers were taken to Mount Airy for treatment. Their vehicle was a total loss. Rescue squads also responded for Woolwine and his son, Cole. Lyons said Cole’s injuries were very severe, adding that he later died from those injuries in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Lyons also read Woolwine’s statement to the court in May. Woolwine stated that he left his Christiansburg home to pick up a man named Roy Cox. The two went to a liquor store in Christiansburg, where Woolwine purchased a 750 milliliter bottle of Devil’s Cut, a Jim Beam bourbon product. Woolwine stated he drank half the bottle of bourbon and also smoked pot.
“He stated that he also drank a 24-ounce can of Four Loko and that he went to North Carolina to purchase synthetic pot,” Lyons said.
Lyons also submitted a statement from the Medical Examiner showing that Cole’s fatal injuries were consistent with the second crash site when the vehicle struck a tree and flipped over into the roadway. Lyons also submitted records to indicate the level of alcohol in Woolwine’s bloodstream.
After the May hearing, Lyons said the Commonwealth has footage of Woolwine purchasing a 750 milliliter bottle of Devil’s Cut from the Christiansburg ABC store at 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 31, approximately 3.5 hours before the fatal crash. By Woolwine’s own statement, that means the defendant drank a half a bottle of bourbon, smoked pot, and consumed a 24-ounce can of Four Loko in a 3.5-hour time frame prior to the two crashes.
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN