Jerry Wayne Damron already serving life term, may get more in son's death
In July 2009, Jerry Wayne Damron and his wife made headlines when a Virginia sheriff's deputy stopped their van because it was moving erratically, and soon after the deputy found a body in the back -- a Taylorsville woman who had been shot, wrapped in a blanket and thrown in the back to be driven to who knows where in the rural hill country.
That notoriety eclipsed the day less than 10 months earlier when Damron drove off a Caldwell County road and struck a tree, killing one of his six children.
Damron, 46, of Taylorsville already is serving life without parole for his conviction in the 2009 killing. This week he is being tried on charges stemming from the 2008 wreck.
District Attorney Jay Gaither explained why the case moved forward to trial four years later.
“An appeal of the murder conviction could happen, or (the sentence) could be commuted," Gaither said. "If we were to not prosecute this, our case could go stale.”
Jury selection began Tuesday. Damron is charged with felony death by vehicle, driving while impaired and reckless driving to endanger.
Investigators say that Damron was driving a van on Morris Creek Road about shortly before 2 p.m. Sept. 26, 2008, when he went off the road and hit a tree. According to N.C. Highway Patrol Trooper T.C. Williams, the road was wet from a light rain at the time of the accident. Damron's wife, Lisa, 30, and six children -- Hauston, 10; Jerry Eugene, 7; Deanna, 5; Mary, 3; Destiny, 2; and Harley, 13 months -- were passengers. Hauston was killed.
Lisa Damron also was charged with six counts of misdemeanor child abuse, aiding and abetting driving while impaired, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia. The five children who survived the wreck were placed in foster care.
In February 2011, Damron pleaded guilty in Alexander County Superior Court to first-degree murder in the death of Kelley Lynette Culley, 42. On July 9, 2009, a sheriff's deputy in Wythe County, Va., stopped the Damrons on Interstate 77 because they were speeding -- Lisa Damron was driving. As the deputy approached Lisa Damron, then 31, he smelled alcohol. Jerry Damron kept getting out of the van while the officer was speaking with Lisa Damron, despite pleas for him to remain inside the van.
Both Damrons were arrested.As investigators later searched the car, they saw what looked like a body in the back of the van. A 9mm pistol and two .22-caliber revolvers also were found. Investigators eventually determined that Culley had been shot six times with a .22-caliber pistol while at the Damrons’ house, 373 Sixth St. SW in Taylorsville.
Damron was of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Lisa pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to between 12 and 24 years in prison.
The trial in Caldwell County is expected to end Friday, according to Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin.
The Taylorsville Times contributed to this story.