Man pleads guilty in fatal DWI crash

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A Wilson man will spend a decade behind bars in connection to an April 2017 impaired-driving crash that killed his uncle.

On Monday, the driver, 35-year-old Charles J. Varnell, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of his uncle, 53-year-old Michael T. Varnell. He was sentenced to roughly 9 to 11 1/2 years in prison, according to court records.

On April 16, 2017, Wilson police officers responded to a single-vehicle crash on London Church Road near Windfield Court.

When officers arrived shortly before 9 p.m., they found Charles Varnell being treated by Wilson County EMS medics and found Michael Varnell dead inside the vehicle, according to police.

Charles Varnell’s blood alcohol level was .17 — more than a twice the legal limit, according to court proceedings. He also tested positive for opiates, prosecutors said.

“The defendant also admitted to using heroin and Oxy and snorting heroin or Oxy right before he drove,” Wilson County prosecutor Kimberly Arch told the court. Oxycodone is an opioid painkiller that has a high risk for abuse and dependency.

Charles Varnell addressed the court Monday prior to his sentencing and apologized to family, his parents and “everyone involved,” he said.

He called the crash a “tragic accident.”

“And I take responsibility for it,” he told the court.

Charles Varnell was driving a 2001 Audi passenger car on London Church Road. The car ran off the road to the right, struck two mailboxes, began to slide sideways and then ran into a ditch, according to the police department’s crash report.

Entering the ditch caused the car to roll over 2 1/2 times before coming to a rest on all four tires, the report stated. Charles Varnell was driving an estimated speed of 50 mph at the time of impact. The speed limit was 45 mph.

Charles Varnell has convictions dating back to 2008, including two DWIs, one in 2009 and one in 2010, according to state records. He was also convicted of felony possession of a Schedule I controlled substance in 2008. All convictions occurred in Wilson County.