Accused DWI driver appears in court on deadly South End crash

Published: Jan. 19, 2016 at 11:28 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 18, 2016 at 11:28 PM EST
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Putnam (left) and her best friend (Photo from friend)
Putnam (left) and her best friend (Photo from friend)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The man accused of driving drunk and striking a pedestrian on South Boulevard Sunday evening appeared in court Monday and was given a $100,000 bond.

Gregory Alan Wheeling, Jr, appeared by video monitor in Mecklenburg County court Tuesday. He's accused of driving drunk and speeding in the accident that killed 28-year-old Kelli Putnam.

Putnam worked for several years at Mac's Speed Shop on South Boulevard, right across the street from where she was struck. She had been walking with her boyfriend after going to the Panthers game, according to friends.

Prosecutor Clayton Jones said Wheeling was driving at least 60 miles per hour in a 35 mph zone, according to witnesses. Jones said officers reported he appeared to have glassy eyes and smelled of alcohol at the scene.

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Jones said Wheeling admitted having a mixed drink and a few beers at a bar in Plaza Midwood. Jones said a friend drove Wheeling's car, but that Wheeling insisted on getting behind the wheel after a restroom pit stop on South Boulevard.

Wheeling was convicted in 2012 of another DWI in which the officer documented in court records that he failed several field sobriety tests after leaving another Charlotte bar. The conviction matters because in his current case, it could help support an aggravated offense with a harsher penalty.

Defense attorney George Laughrun started his portion of the hearing by telling the judge there are two sides to the story. Laughrun said it wasn't the driver who caused the accident, it was Putnam. Laughrun said it happened because she stepped out into the street, outside of the crosswalk, during dusk.

Putnam's family is expected to have her funeral this weekend in her home state of New York. Jessica Ingalls, who described Putnam as her best friend, said Kelli always had her back. Ingalls called her witty, loyal and real.

Ingalls also said she wants justice in court when it comes to prosecuting the driver.

None of those present in support of Wheeling were willing to speak to the media. Laughrun declined comment after court.

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