Here are two faces behind the statistics you often read about and see on the news.
David & Trey Doolittle
In a scene repeated all too often, scores of students assembled before the steps of New Hanover High School, clutching candles as they wept, hugged and prayed. It had been a heart-wrenching day since learning one of their classmates, Ronald David Doolittle III, popularly known as Trey, was hit by a Buick while cycling with his father over the weekend on River Road. His father died at the scene; Trey succumbed to massive injuries a day later. Their deaths have delivered yet another surge of shock and despair through a student body still reeling from the loss of a famed high school football player on New Year's Day. Monday's vigil followed a first court appearance from the driver of the Buick accused of hitting and killing the Doolittles.
The driver faced multiple felony charges as well as a count of cocaine possession and driving with an open container. He appeared before a judge via a video feed from jail. After a discussion about his financial assets and liabilities, he was awarded a court-appointed attorney. Trey and his father, Ronald David Doolittle II, 46, were hit while pedaling south on River Road about 9:30 a.m. Sunday. Witnesses told troopers that the Buick had been swerving and that after the collision, the suspect drove about 20 or 30 yards before a witness made him stop and turn around. The driver had no criminal history in North Carolina, authorities said.
Interviews Monday with the N.C. Highway Patrol and friends of the victim's family provided a clearer picture of the Doolittles, described as a close father and son who enjoyed active lifestyles before their lives were taken in a flash. Trey, 17, an avid athlete who friends said had an infectious smile and ran track and cross-country for New Hanover High where he was a senior, and his father were training for a triathlon. The Doolittles chose to ride River Road because it was presumed to be safer earlier in the morning. The two were reportedly hit near Purl B. Ingraham Road, about a mile from Halyburton Memorial Parkway. Trooper B.R. Phillips said the collision threw both vicitims about 230 feet. The father was killed instantly; Trey clung to life at the hospital but died Monday evening. In a statement after Trey's death, the family expressed their appreciation for the community's thoughts and prayers and said Trey's organs would be donated “so other families can receive his life-saving gift,” hospital Erin Balzotti said, reading the statement. Trey's friends and classmates gathered outside the school to hold a candlelight vigil. At one point, they broke into groups, huddled together and prayed. The elder Doolittle, known by friends and family simply as David, worked in the medical field, including nearly three years as manager of the in-patient services unit at New Hanover Regional. He left in January 2008, a hospital spokeswoman said. Tony Williams, a friend for more than 10 years, said he and David were surfing buddies and had traveled to Costa Rica together. He remembers him as a loving father who always supported his three sons. “He was as good a father as you can hope to have,” Williams said. “He would do anything for his kids.”Trey, David's oldest son, wanted to follow in his father's footsteps and also was training to compete in a triathlon, Williams said. “It's really sad that he's out there training to better himself, and he gets hit by someone in a car doing the opposite of that,” Tobey said.
The driver was found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder, guilty of two counts of felony death by motor vehicle, guilty of reckless driving and guilty of possession of an open container of alcohol by a jury consisting of four men and eight women from Jacksonville.
Prior to the sentencing, Joy Doolittle was invited by David to speak directly to Judge Paul L. Jones. She told Jones that she gets fever blisters frequently and was prescribed anti-anxiety medication because of the stress of losing Trey and David Doolittle.
While trying to hold back tears, she quietly said, "There seems to be a cloud of sadness."
She ended the trial by telling the judge about the final picture that she took with her son while he was alive. She remembered that Trey Doolittle, a 17-year-old boy who just wanted to ride his bike, had thrown his arm around her neck and was smiling.
"I can imagine feeling it there now," she whispered.
The judge finally made the decision she had been waiting almost a year to hear.
"Vengeance only belongs to one person and that's the Lord," Judge Paul L. Jones said.
The driver was sentenced to 24-30 years in the N.C. Department of Corrections for the deaths of Trey and David Doolittle.
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