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Murder charges filed against UNC student in wrong-way crash

HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. - Three second-degree murder charges were filed Thursday against a University of North Carolina student accused of killing three people in a weekend crash on Interstate 85, reports CBS affiliate WRAL.

Chandler Michael Kania, 20, of Asheboro, was also charged with three counts of felony death by motor vehicle and one count of felony serious injury by motor vehicle, says the station. He was previously charged in the case with driving while impaired, driving the wrong way on an interstate, careless and reckless driving, driving after consuming alcohol as a minor, possession of alcohol by a minor and having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle, reports WRAL.

State Highway Patrol troopers say Kania was driving north in the southbound lanes near the split of I-85 and Interstate 40 in Orange County early Sunday when his Jeep Wrangler collided with a Suzuki driven by Felecia Harris, reports the station.

Harris, 49, of Charlotte, her friend Darlene McGee, 46, of Charlotte, and Harris' granddaughter Jahnice Baird, 6, of Brooklyn, N.Y., were killed in the fiery wreck. Harris' daughter, Jahnia King, 9, was seriously injured but was released Thursday from UNC Hospitals, according to WRAL.

An eyewitness saw Kania was on the wrong side of I-85 for at least 6 miles before the head-on collision, says the station. Assistant Orange County District Attorney Jeff Nieman said troopers found a box of beer at the crash site and said Kania had "a strong odor of alcohol" and bloodshot eyes.

Kania handed troopers the driver's license of someone else, that said he was 21, Nieman said, adding that Kania didn't have his own driver's license at the time but had a fraternity ID with his real name.

Authorities have evidence that Kania went to at least two different bars that night, using the ID that gave his age as 21, the prosecutor said.

According to the station, five people reportedly tried to stop Kania from getting behind the wheel in Chapel Hill, Nieman said. It was an effort which ended in a physical altercation, with one person being knocked to the ground. People reportedly tried to take Kania's keys but wound up grabbing his cellphone instead, thinking that would prevent him from leaving, the prosecutor said.

District Judge Charles Anderson set a $1 million bond for Kania, who appeared in court in a wheelchair after recovering at UNC Hospitals from injuries suffered in the crash, according to WRAL. He was taken to court upon his release.

"Based upon our understanding of the facts, there is substantial reason to believe he is a danger not only to others but also to himself. That's a concern of ours," said Nieman, who reportedly wanted a $1.5 million bond.

Kania's mother sobbed in the courtroom as Nieman described the case against him, reports the station. The family on Wednesday issued a statement saying they were "absolutely devastated about this tragedy."

"This case represents almost unimaginable horror and loss and tragedy and is an indictment, in many ways, of the world we live in and the world we tolerate," Judge Anderson said in setting Kania's bond.

If Kania posts bond, the judge ordered that he remain under electronic monitoring and not leave his home between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.

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