Chad Starling, the 19-year-old driver of the car in which Joseph Grant Laverty fatally was injured in a collision Saturday night, pleaded not guilty to first-degree vehicular homicide and other charges this morning in Columbus Recorder's Court.
Laverty, 17, was in the back seat of Starling's 2000 Honda Civic about 9 p.m. when the car crossed the center line and collided with a 2002 Chevrolet Tahoe on Mobley Road near Ranch Forest Drive.
After the crash, Starling left the scene and ran to his mother's house, a Columbus police officer testified at the 9 a.m. hearing.
Laverty had to be extricated from the Civic. He was taken to the hospital, where he died Monday morning.
Witnesses told investigators Starling, Laverty and another teenager had stopped at the Summit gas station at Whitesville and Double Churches roads to buy beer before the crash. There they met 17-year-old Megan Margarum, Starling's friend and one-time girlfriend. She was driving a black Honda Civic occupied by two other teenage girls.
After buying two cases of beer, Starling pulled out onto Whitesville Road and turned right onto Mobley Road, following Margarum's vehicle, police testified today before Judge Michael Cielinksi.
Witnesses on Mobley Road told police they saw both Civics traveling well over the speed limit. Several estimated their speed at 80-90 miles per hour, and some thought the two cars were racing, an officer said.
Starling tried to pass Margarum's car, and when he crossed the center line, he saw the Tahoe approaching head-on, so he swerved back behind Margarum, police said. He lost control of his car and spun out, once again crossing the center line and then colliding with the SUV, the officer said.
During a Wednesday morning interview with investigators, Margarum was cited for speeding, racing on a highway and reckless driving. She pleaded not guilty to all charges in this morning's hearing and was assessed a bond totaling about $2,000.
Charged Wednesday with vehicular homicide, driving while his license was suspended, reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident, failure to render aid, no proof of insurance, no state tag and improper license plate, Starling's bonds totaled $26,500.
Both cases have been bound over to Muscogee Superior Court.
For more on this story please read Saturday's Ledger-Enquirer.