Wilmington man accused of killing toddler while driving under the influence of opioids had prior incidents; bond set at $59 million

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Jonathan Alexander Hayes
Jonathan Alexander Hayes

WILMINGTON — The bond is set at $59 million for 24-year-old Jonathan Alexander Hayes, who is now charged with second-degree murder following a Tuesday morning wreck near Independence Mall that killed a 2-year-old boy and injured other members of the boy’s family.

Hayes, of Wilmington, made his first appearance in New Hanover County District Court via video on Wednesday before Judge Sandra Ray. He also faces charges of possession of drug paraphernalia, no operator’s license, reckless driving to endanger, and felony death by vehicle.

The wreck killed 2-year-old Mason Richardson and injured his 4-year-old brother, his father and mother, who, according to Assistant District Attorney Doug Carriker, is expecting another child.

The wreck happened at about 10:45 a.m. Tuesday at the intersection of Independence Boulevard and Oleander Drive. An eye witness reportedly saw Hayes’ GMC pick-up truck heading south on Independence, repeatedly weaving in and out of traffic before striking the victims’ vehicle.

Police suspect Hayes was traveling at around 50 miles per hour when he rear-ended the victims’ vehicle, which had just began moving forward from a stop in the southbound lane of the intersection, Carriker said. Both Mason and his brother were seated in car-seats in the back of the car.

The impact propelled the Richardson’s vehicle across the intersection. Hayes’ reportedly continued down Independence and side-swiped another vehicle before coming to a stop about a “football field’s length” away from the scene of the crash, Carriker said.

Several good Samaritans, along with an off-duty sheriff’s deputy, stopped to render aid at the scene. The off-duty deputy noticed Hayes appeared to be “high,” Carriker said, and called for NARCAN to be administered to the defendant at the scene.

A syringe and drug paraphernalia were reportedly visible inside the vehicle. Carriker said it was the fifth time NARCAN, a drug used to reverse an opioid overdose, had been administered to Hayes by law enforcement since May.

The boy and his family were transported to New Hanover Regional Medical Center for treatment. Two-year-old Mason suffered severe head trauma as a result of the accident and later succumbed to his injuries. Hayes was also taken to the hospital.

Carriker said the rest of Mason’s family remained at the hospital Wednesday for treatment of injuries that are not considered to be life-threatening.

Along with the charges in the wreck, Hayes is facing several unrelated, pending charges in New Hanover County District Court, including felony attempt to break or enter a building, two counts driving while license revoked/impaired revocation, driving left of center, and felony possession with intent to manufacture, sell or deliver a schedule I controlled substance.

Hayes made his first appearance in district court via video on Wednesday. His bond was raised to $59 million.
Hayes made his first appearance in district court via video on Wednesday. His bond was raised to $59 million.

According to the North Carolina Department of Corrections, Hayes was previously convicted of misdemeanor driving while impaired in September 2012 for an offense that occurred on Oct. 28, 2011. His most recent convictions include misdemeanor larceny and refuse or provide false information to an officer.

Hayes opted to hire his own attorney, but an attorney from the public defender’s office appeared for the hearing and requested a lower bond for the defendant. Hayes’ bond was originally set at $9 million secured. But the judge raised the bond an additional $50 million, Wednesday afternoon.

“Based on his past behavior, he’s escalated,” Ray said to the court. “And the number that stuck in my head was the 50 miles per hour he was going, so that’s what I’m setting at.”