Former state trooper pleads guilty in DWI, fatal hit and run that killed 21-year-old
FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — Christopher Shane Grubbs told a Forsyth County judge that he spent 20 years as a paramedic and a state highway trooper working to preserve and protect life.
But in August 2013, he ended the life of 21-year-old Richard Bernard Byers Jr., who Grubbs fatally hit with his pickup and left lying in the road overnight in the rain, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
Byers was found the next morning and taken to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, where he died of his injuries.
“There is not a day, an hour, a second out of 60 minutes that I don’t think of him,” Grubbs told Byers’ family after he pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to felony hit-and-run causing serious injury or death and misdemeanor death by motor vehicle that happened Aug. 12, 2013.
He also pleaded guilty to driving while impaired, reckless driving and fleeing to elude arrest that resulted from a separate incident on Aug. 21, 2013.
In 2007, he resigned from the N.C. Highway Patrol after an incident in which Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputies pulled him over on suspicion of being drunk.
He was never charged, and an internal investigation was launched.
First Sgt. Jeff Gordon, a spokesman for the highway patrol, said the internal investigation was administrative and the results are not public record.
Judge John O. Craig of Forsyth Superior Court consolidated the charges — except for the DWI — into one and sentenced Grubbs to 14 months to 26 months in prison. On the DWI charge, Craig gave Grubbs a suspended sentence of 30 days and placed him on supervised probation for 36 months.
Grubbs must complete 200 hours of community service, get a substance abuse assessment and attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous twice a week during probation. He also must give up his driver’s license and not drink alcohol while on probation.
According to Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Martin, this is what happened:
On Aug. 12, 2013, around 10 p.m., Byers was walking in the rain to a friend’s house in the 2700 block of West Mountain Street when he was hit from behind. Grubbs later told Winston-Salem police that he thought he had hit something, jumped out of his truck to check and left after not seeing anything.
About 6:30 a.m. the next day, someone found Byers lying about 10 feet out in the road. His shoes were found 27 feet from his body. Police collected debris from the scene that appeared to come from a white Toyota Tacoma pickup.
Investigators checked with Modern Toyota, which confirmed that the debris came from a white Toyota Tacoma pickup. Police began looking for one with front-end damage.
On Aug. 21, a police officer spotted a pickup with that kind of damage sitting outside a car wash. Grubbs was sitting in the truck eating chicken. When the officer approached, Grubbs sped off, leading to a short chase.
When Grubbs was finally stopped, the officer noted that Grubbs smelled of alcohol. He refused a breathalyzer, but a sample of his blood was taken. His blood alcohol level was .13 percent; the legal limit in North Carolina is .08 percent.
Grubbs initially denied that he had hit Byers, but later told police that he did hit something. He didn’t return to the point of impact, which he said is why he didn’t see Byers.
He told police that he had two beers on Aug. 13.
Byers died of blunt force trauma and had a fractured skull, as well as various abrasions on his body, Martin said.
Jones Byrd, Grubbs’ attorney, said Grubbs has had a long history of public service, beginning his law-enforcement career in 1994. He had been a full-time paramedic with Guilford County EMS since 2009.
Byrd said that when Grubbs tried to resign, his supervisors initially wouldn’t accept it. Grubbs resigned last week.
Byrd said that Grubbs had some tough times after his marriage fell apart but was able to rebound. He has two daughters and splits custody of them with his ex-wife. When his ex-wife remarried last year, he had trouble handling it, Byrd said.
Byers’ mother, Jennifer Byers, said her son was special to her. She was told in college that she wouldn’t be able to have any children, and then her son was born. Jennifer Byers said her son was bright and loved music and helping people.
He did hit a rebellious stage during his teens but he was a mostly happy young man whose compassion knew little limit, she said.
One of the hardest things to take was the idea that her son had been lying in the road for hours, she said.
“I couldn’t imagine my son lying out all night in the elements and I didn’t know and I couldn’t be there for him,” Jennifer Byers said.
Grubbs asked for forgiveness and Jennifer Byers gave it.
“I’m a woman of faith,” she said. “That doesn’t mean I don’t want justice for my son.”