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WCU student pleads guilty to death by vehicle

A Western Carolina University student pleaded guilty Tuesday in Jackson County District Court to misdemeanor death by vehicle in connection with a wreck last year that killed a fellow student, Arabia “Rainey” Niles.

Assistant District Attorney Andy Buckner said Stanley Cornelius, 18, of Greensboro, was speeding 55 mph in a 35 mph zone on Sept. 18, 2019, on two-lane Little Savannah Road. Traveling in the northbound lane, he entered a right-hand curve and crossed the double yellow line into the southbound lane.

 

In that oncoming lane, the driver of a dump truck saw the car cross over. He hit his brakes, managing to slow his rig to an almost complete stop seconds before the 2008 Honda Accord smashed into the front of his vehicle.

Cornelius and a front-seat passenger suffered minor injuries. The truck driver was uninjured.

Niles, 18, a WCU freshman and also from Greensboro, was seated in the back seat, wearing her seat belt, when Cornelius wrecked. She died from blunt-force trauma to her chest area, Buckner said.

District Court Judge Donna Forga sentenced Cornelius to 60 days in jail, suspended, and placed him on a year of unsupervised probation. She also ordered Cornelius to perform 120 hours of community service at WCU, fashioned in some manner to honor Niles.

The wreck happened in front of Little Savannah Baptist Church. There was video of the accident recorded on the church’s security cameras. Blood tests showed that Cornelius was not impaired at the time of the accident.

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