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Greenville man sentenced in fatal hit-and-run crash

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By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A Greenville man pled guilty on Monday afternoon to a September 2015 hit-and-run crash that left one woman dead and another seriously injured.

Ryan Silver, 24, of 1113 Oak Hill Drive, pleaded guilty to felony hit-and-run resulting in death and felony hit-and-run resulting in serious injury.

Superior Court Judge Jeffery Foster gave Silver a suspended sentence of 26-50 months in prison and five years of supervised probation. In addition, Silver was sentenced to 21 days in the Pitt County Detention Center, with time split between Thanksgiving, Christmas and Silver's next birthday.

Silver's driver's license was suspended for two years and he is required to perform 100 hours of community service, continue a substance abuse treatment program and pay restitution of $901 to David Zalonis for cremation expenses.

Emily Anne Zalonis and her friend Courtney Renee Brady were walking west near the roadway of Portertown Road and Eastern Pines Road sometime before 3 a.m. on Sept. 30, 2015. As they were walking, Ryan Silver of Greenville who was driving a 2016 Black GMC Yukon collided with the women, who were thrown into a ditch. Zalonis was laying face down and was unresponsive. Brady who was seriously injured flagged down a state trooper.

The trooper began CPR on Zalonis while waiting for EMS to arrive. Zalonis was transported to Vidant Medical Center where she later succumbed to her injuries. At the time of her death, she was the mother of an 18-month-old daughter.

At some point prior to the trooper's arrival, Silver left the scene of the crash. He reported the incident several hours later.

Silver's attorney, Myron Hill, said that after the wreck Silver drove home, woke up his parents and told them he thought he had hit a mailbox. According to officials, Silver's father called the Pitt County Sheriff's Office and inquired about how to report the incident.

“After seeing a resource officer on the road, Silver’s father flagged the officer down. The officer was aware of details about a hit-and-run and contacted the Greenville Police Department,” Trooper Marvin Williams said at the time. “The police department then contacted the highway patrol, and troopers went to Silver’s house to talk with him. Based on the time frame and information given, Silver was connected to the hit-and-run, Williams said.

Prosecutor Caroline Lawler-Webb said that troopers found debris from Silver's vehicle at the scene of the crash. Webb added that Silver was on his phone when the wreck occurred and had consumed five alcoholic drinks before the crash.

During sentencing, David Zalonis, the father of Emily Zalonis, became visibly upset at Hill's remarks regarding Silver confusing the pedestrians with mailboxes.

“Mailboxes are not in the middle of the road,” David Zalonis said.

Zalonis then spoke to Silver while reading a prepared letter detailing the night he received a phone call and learned Emily was involved in a wreck and was at the emergency room.

“My heart sank when I learned my daughter was killed in a hit-and-run,” Zalonis said. “I'm deeply distressed. My four-year-old will never know her mother. I just don't understand why you didn't stop.”

According to an official crash report, Silver was going 45 mph at the time of impact. The speed limit for that stretch of road is 55.

Silver fought back tears as he apologized to Zalonis and to Brady's family.

“There are no words I can say to tell you how sorry I am,” Silver said. “I pray for y'all every day and hope you can find God's comfort and strength.”

Foster said that many people fail to recognize the dangers of drinking and driving and the effects it has on families.

“What happened here was a tragedy,” Foster said. “A young woman is dead and you made a stupid foolish decision getting behind the wheel of a car. And lives were changed forever.” 

Prior to Silver’s sentencing, several cases were continued, including a Pitt County man who is expected to go on trial for attempted first-degree murder in October. 

Calvin Miller was jailed last year after authorities said he shot his wife in a Pactolus store, a day after she filed a domestic violence protection order against him. The woman was hospitalized with serious injuries.

The shooting occurred about 7:30 a.m. at JP Davenport & Son Store on U.S. 264 east of Greenville, where Charlene Miller was working, according to Lt. Kip Gaskins of the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office.

Miller had filed a domestic violence protection order against Calvin Lee Miller the day before, according to Pitt County court records. 

Calvin Miller, 56, 2359 Sheppard Mill Road, ran from the store after the shooting, officials said, prompting a search of the area and a lockdown at nearby Pactolus School. The lockdown was lifted about 1:40 p.m. after his arrest.

Deputies located Miller near the intersection of N.C. 30 and U.S. 264, where he was arrested, Gaskins said. Miller is charged with attempted first-degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and inflict serious injury and possession of a firearm by a felon.

Prior to the shooting, Charlene Miller outlined several concerns about her husband in the protection order. She wrote that he had threatened her life and burned her personal items, adding that he “threatened to come to my job to get my car and make me lose my job.”

Another case that was continued involved Justin Emanule Whitley, 26, of 5581 Clarks Neck Road.  Whitley is one of three co-defendants in a 2016 murder that left one man dead and another one injured in the Rivercreek neighborhood in Washington, N.C.  The shooting took place on May 31 about 8:50 p.m. at a home on Linda Drive.

 Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com or 252-329-9566. Follow him on Twitter @TylerstocksGDR