Harper sentencing for killing pregnant woman, man set for Wednesday

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The man convicted of killing a pregnant woman, her unborn child, and a Good Samaritan who had stopped to help them returns to a Knox Co. courtroom on Wednesday to learn his fate.

In April, Curtis Harper was found guilty on multiple charges related to the hit-and-run deaths of Nelson Soto, Chasity Thornell, and her unborn child in May of last year, including vehicular homicide by intoxication and reckless endangerment. He faces more than 50 years in prison.

It was early May 30th of last year when 24-year-old Chasity Thornell, who was seven months pregnant, drove to help a friend whose car had stalled near the intersection of Washington Pike and Atoka Lane in North Knoxville.

Nelson Soto, who lived nearby, brought them gasoline. As Thornell was hugging him to say thanks, police say Curtis Harper ran into them and kept going. Thornell, her unborn daughter and Soto didn't survive.

Several days later, Harper turned himself in.

On Monday, Curtis Harper took the stand for the first time, recounting the day of the wreck that killed Soto, Thornell, and her baby.

Harper recounted the day, saying he had his first drink around dinner. He bought a 2-shot bottle of liquor to pour into a "Big Gulp" soda cup from a gas station.

Later he ran errands, then he joined friends at The Hill. Harper said he shared one 48 ounce pitcher of beer with two others... drinking two to two and half cups himself.

"I was feeling fine. I wasn't feeling impaired at all," said Harper about when he left the bar.

Through all of his testimony, Harper remained clear, confident and emotionless... even as he laid out the moments of the crash.

Harper recalled driving down Washington Pike at the speed limit of 35 with low beams on even though lighting was sparse.

"I looked up and saw a car, I swerved left and I heard a loud crash. I thought I hit the car," said Harper.

Harper said it wasn't until the next morning when a friend called that he learned he'd killed three people.

"I was really scared then," said Harper.

Harper said he wiped down the car with a sponge and a hose to get rid of the blood, afraid he'd get into trouble.

Civil cases are also pending. The Thornell and Soto families have filed lawsuits against Harper, his parents and The Hill, which is the bar they say served him too much alcohol.

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