Crozet Man Pleads Guilty in Deadly Racing Trial

July 16, 2013

A man from Crozet has pleaded guilty to road racing, in a race that caused a fatal crash on Garth Road in Albemarle County in September.

Thomas Appleton was facing two felony charges of racing resulting in death, and hit and run.

In a plea agreement Tuesday, Appleton pleaded guilty to the racing charge, and in exchange, prosecutors agreed to not pursue the hit and run charge.

Samuel Taylor was killed when investigators say he swerved his car off the road while racing Appleton on Garth Road. Taylor was 18 years old, and Zug says he had just received his drivers license a few weeks before the crash.

A witness told police she saw Taylor and Appleton's cars speeding and repeatedly passing each other along the narrow, two-lane road, despite a double-yellow line.

Investigators say, this wasn't a planned race. Taylor and Appleton did not know each other. Appleton told investigators that the only reason he was driving fast that day was because he was late for work at the Kroger in the Barracks Road Shopping Center.

The final time that the cars passed one another, they scraped together, leaving paint marks. Then Taylor swerved off the road and hit a tree. He died on the scene from trauma to the head.

Zug says after the crash, Appleton drove away and went to work. Later that night, he saw the news coverage of the crash and decided to turn himself in to police.

Zug says he plans to recommend just one year in prison for Appleton, because he had a clean driving record before the race. Zug also says that Appleton is not the only one at fault, because it takes two people to race.

Appleton's defense attorney, Bonnie Lepold, declined to offer a comment about the plea agreement.

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