Driver pleads guilty in deaths of Charlotte pastor's 2 children

PENDER COUNTY, N.C. — The driver who caused a crash that killed two Charlotte children will spend less than three years in prison – despite new information about powerful drugs in his system during the crash.

Matthew Deans pleaded guilty to two counts of involuntary manslaughter Wednesday for the deaths of Dobbs Eddings and Reed Eddings. That means Gentry Eddings and Hadley Eddings will not have to go through a trial about the deaths of their two children, but they faced Deans Wednesday in court. A judge sentenced Deans to 27 to 32 months in prison, followed by a 36-month probation.

The charges against Deans stem from a crash in Pender County in May when the truck he was driving rear-ended Hadley Eddings' car. Dobbs, 2, was killed immediately. Reed was delivered by emergency C-section and died at the hospital.

“All of us involved in criminal justice see remarkable things. The loss of Dobbs and Reed Eddings ripped the heart out of this community,” said Ben David, district attorney for New Hanover and Pender counties.

David released new information about toxicology tests that show Deans had acetyl fentanyl, an opioid stronger than heroin, and marijuana in his system at the time of the crash.

“It is a drug that is relatively new to law enforcement and (the) justice system. I'd never seen it before this case,” David said.

North Carolina lawmakers recently banned acetyl fentanyl, but that law took effect last month, after the deadly crash.

“(It’s) not only an opioid, but something that has caused the overdose deaths of at least 52 people in multiple states, including this one,” David said.

The Drug Enforcement Administration upgraded these types of drug compounds two years ago. The agency says it's sometimes marketed as LSD and "extremely small amounts of these drugs can cause seizures, cardiac and respiratory arrest, and death."

Gentry Eddings, a worship leader at Forest Hill church in Ballantyne, and his wife forgive Deans.

They sent Channel 9 a statement that reads: "We are thankful that Matthew Deans was willing to accept responsibility for what has happened. We believe he was sincere in his apology. Our hearts still have compassion for him and we were glad to have the opportunity to express our forgiveness to him directly. Our hope and prayer is that he would be restored and live a good life.

We are sincerely thankful to District Attorney Ben David and his team, who poured their hearts into achieving justice for Dobbs and Reed."

“When they tell the defendant they hope to be holding hands with you and their children in heaven, that's powerful stuff,” said Col. William Gray, with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.

Gentry Eddings is preparing to preach Oct. 4 about forgiveness and rebuilding lives after loss.

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