Saturday, June 3, 2023

Ocean Isle Beach teen takes plea for wreck that killed 13-year-old boy

Devin Keither Harris
Devin Keither Harris

BRUNSWICK COUNTY —  A Brunswick County teen charged in connection with a Shallotte wreck that killed a 13-year-old Caleb Smith has pleaded guilty in the case.

Devin Keither Harris, 19, pleaded guilty Monday in Brunswick County Superior Court to a charge of involuntary manslaughter and interfering with an electronic monitoring device in connection with the case. He also pleaded guilty to several other charges in connection with an unrelated breaking and entering case.  

Harris’ plea took place before Superior Court Judge James Gregory Bell, with more than three dozen people in the courtroom who had come in to support of Caleb Smith’s family.

Read related story: Family of 13-year-old killed in Shallotte wreck: ‘We want him to be remembered as a child that had a big heart’

The wreck that killed Caleb Smith happened in the early morning hours of Feb. 10, 2016 on Bridgers Road in Shallotte.

Harris, his younger brother Justice Harris and Smith were traveling toward N.C. 130 on Bridgers Road. The vehicle hit the left side of Mulberry Bridge on the passenger side of the vehicle before it left the roadway and submerged in about 7 feet of water in Mulberry Creek. Law enforcement pulled Smith, who was the front passenger in the vehicle, from the submerged car.

Devin Harris and 16-year-old Justice Harris, a student at West Brunswick High School, were taken to the hospital for treatment following the wreck. Smith was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Devin Harris was arrested in the case on Feb. 14, 2016, charged with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle, reckless driving, no operator’s license, speeding and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

Prosecutors say Harris was driving 61 mph on Bridgers Road, which has a speed limit of 35 mph. Warrants also state he was charged with the unauthorized use of a 2007 Honda Accord. The vehicle belonged to Smith’s parents.

Devin Harris was later arrested again and charged with misdemeanor tampering with an electronic monitoring device. According to the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, he was arrested at his home on Cardiff Notch in Ocean Isle Beach and booked at the Brunswick County Jail.

A Brunswick County grand jury indicted Harris on all charges in connection with the fatal wreck in March 2016, according to court records.

On Monday, Harris also pleaded guilty to the charge of interfering with an electronic monitoring device, as well as three counts of breaking and entering into a motor vehicle and three counts of larceny after breaking and entering. Those charges stemmed from an unrelated 2015 case.

Superior Court Judge James Gregory Bell sentenced Devin Harris to a 20 to 33 months in prison, which was suspended and ordered him to serve 60 months of probation. He also has an intermediate judgement, a split sentence of 8 months with credit for time served.

Along with his prison sentence and probation, he was ordered to attend Brunswick County Treatment Court, attend grief counseling, mental health and substance abuse counseling, write apology letters to each member of the Smith family and to give three different speeches for Brunswick County Street Safe within the first year of his probation. He must also get his GED and become gainfully employed.

Assistant District Attorney Jamie Turnage prosecuted the case for the state. Attorney James Payne represented Devin Harris.

Related Articles