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Driver in deadly crash charged with vehicular homicide

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

The Fayetteville man accused of leading Clayton County Police on a high speed chase Wednesday, that allegedly caused a fatal crash in Fulton County, now faces additional charges, including vehicular homicide.

Fulton County Police have charged Christian Ree Harris, 24, with two counts of vehicular homicide, four counts of hit-and-run, one count of driving on the wrong side of the road, and one count of reckless driving, according to Sgt. Scott McBride of the Fulton County Police Department.

McBride said Friday that Harris will not have a first appearance hearing in Fulton County until he is transferred from the Clayton County Jail. He did not have information on when that transfer would take place.

Harris is accused of causing the head-on collision that killed Zannie Hatcher, 73, and her daughter, Bonnie Vicks, 57, both of College Park, on Old National Highway Wednesday night.

He appeared in Clayton County Magistrate Court Friday for a first appearance hearing. Harris faces 19 charges in Clayton County, including numerous traffic violations, two drug possession charges, and a theft by receiving charge. Police say Harris was driving a stolen 2010 Chevrolet Silverado pick-up truck during the chase.

Magistrate Judge Bobby Simmons denied bond, Friday, on the theft by receiving charge, as well as on the charges of fleeing from a police officer, and violation of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act. Harris is scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing on Sept. 17, at 3 p.m., in Clayton County Magistrate Court.

On the day of the incident, Clayton County Police initially encountered Harris when they say he was impeding traffic on Old Dixie Road, near Interstate 75, while allegedly talking to two women in an area known for prostitution.

When police approached the vehicle, Harris allegedly sped away, running a red light on Upper Riverdale Road, then turning onto Interstate 75 northbound, according to a warrantless arrest affidavit issued by Clayton County Police.

Harris reached speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour, according to the affidavit. "The offender did not show any regard to the other vehicles on the roadway," the affidavit states.

Police say Harris continued onto Interstate 285, to Old National Highway, where the fatal crash occurred.

"I'm hurting inside for the victims' family, for my son, and for myself," said Kathryn Snowden, Harris' mother, following Friday's court hearing. "I don't know what to say, but I'm so sorry," said Snowden, 42, of Fayetteville.

Valerie Pettigrew, 39, of Riverdale, said she is the mother of Harris' newborn son, Merrick. "My baby just turned two weeks yesterday," said Pettigrew. "I'm still in shock. Honestly, prayer is the only thing that's keeping the family peaceful. I'm just honestly speechless," she said.

"I talked to him [Harris] yesterday morning, and he was very remorseful, and couldn't believe it happened, and he was just sorry for causing the accident." Pettigrew said. "Our love and prayers go out to the [victims'] family, and we really pray that they have peace, and forgive Christian," she said.

A Clayton County Police chase review board is investigating the incident, according to Lt. Rebecca Brown, a department spokesperson. Brown said the officers involved in the chase acted according to police policy when they pursued Harris.

Eldrin Bell, chairman of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners, said he has directed Clayton County Chief of Staff Alex Cohilas to conduct a review of the circumstances surrounding the chase.