Man Found Guilty Of Second Degree Murder For Hitting Woman With Vehicle After Panthers Game

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A jury has found Gregory Wheeling Jr. guilty of second degree murder in the death of 28-year-old Kelli Putnam.  Wheeling was sentenced to serve at least 13 years in prison.  The DA’s Office released this information in a news release:

In January 2016, Wheeling was with a group of friends at a Charlotte bar when they decided to leave.  A woman who had not been drinking drove Wheeling’s car.  Wheeling, who sat in the front passenger seat, became agitated with how slow she was driving and used his hand to press down her leg on the accelerator.  After stopping at a gas station, despite being intoxicated, Wheeling demanded his keys and then got behind the wheel with his friends in the car.  Witnesses testified at trial that he began speeding and driving erratically, weaving in and out of traffic along South Boulevard in Charlotte.

Meanwhile, Ms. Putnam was walking down South Boulevard after leaving a Carolina Panthers football game.  She attempted to cross South Boulevard, and when she did so, Wheeling’s car struck her, throwing her 191 feet.  Ms. Putnam suffered severe trauma and was pronounced deceased on the scene.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police determined Wheeling was driving 51-63 mph in a 35 mph zone when he struck Ms. Putnam.  A blood analysis found that Wheeling’s blood alcohol content was .13.  Wheeling had previously been convicted of driving while impaired, and he remained under a court order that prohibited him from driving with a blood alcohol content of .04 or more.

Original Story:

CHARLOTTE, NC — A jury will deliberate for a second day Tuesday in the case of a Charlotte man accused of driving drunk and killing a girl after a Panthers game.

State prosecutors charged Gregory Wheeling with driving while impaired and second-degree murder, but a judge said Monday that jurors can consider a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Wheeling walked out of the courthouse silent. Supporters tried to block cameras as jurors deliberate his fate.

“It is an accident. That’s what happened,” Wheeling’s attorney, George Laughrun, told the jurors.

Assistant District Attorney Desmond McCallum argued, “His [Wheeling] choices, his intoxication led to this.”

Police say Wheeling was driving drunk when he hit and killed Kelli Putnam. She was crossing South Blvd. after a Panthers game in January 2016.

In closing arguments Monday, Wheeling’s attorney argued Putnam was drinking, had a blood alcohol content of .20, she darted into traffic and no driver would have time to dodge her.

“A pedestrian has a duty not to run into oncoming traffic,” said Laughrun.
Laughrun also told jurors, “The state of North Carolina has to disprove accident beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Prosecutors argued Wheeling’s blood alcohol content was .13, he was speeding at 51 miles per hour and Putnam was standing still in the road to cross South Blvd.

“He never braked because he never saw her because he was too drunk, and the only thing that stopped him was a utility pole,” said McCallum.

Witnesses told jurors her body flew half a football field.

A nurse testified Wheeling did not seem impaired.

Jurors asked the judge to clarify the difference between involuntary manslaughter and second-degree murder.

She explained murder means killed with malice, intentionally done.

Involuntary manslaughter would mean unintentionally killed by being culpably negligent.

Jurors heard from 21 witnesses during this trial and saw 93 pieces of evidence.