KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — A 16-year-old boy accused of killing a pastor and his wife in September while driving a stolen pickup truck pleaded true Monday afternoon to juvenile charges of vehicular homicide.
Mekiah T. Davis, 16, also pleaded true to theft and assault charges.
As a juvenile, he can be held in state custody until his 19th birthday under Tennessee law. He could earn good time that shortens his sentence, Knox County Juvenile Court Judge Tim Irwin said.
The family of Ruben and Belinda Wilson said Davis's crimes had devastated them. But daughter Meghan Nicely said she felt compelled to forgive Davis because it's what Jesus would do.
"I don't want him to do this ever again to somebody else," Nicely said, reading a victim impact statement to Irwin, Davis and Davis's mother Candice Sulfridge.
Hallie Nicely, Meghan's 4-year-old daughter and the Wilsons' granddaughter, also suffered injuries in the crash on Mascot Road.
Davis was 15 at the time of the Sept. 10 crash. He was at the wheel of a Chevrolet 350, which he'd stolen a few days earlier. He was accompanied by Austin Tipton, 20.
Davis was an escapee from the state Department of Children's Services custody after being found delinquent of juvenile charges in another county, according to court testimony.
Witnesses estimated he was driving as fast as 80 mph and passing a vehicle on Mascot Road when he hit the Wilsons, of Blaine.
Belinda Wilson, 68, was driving the couple's Ford SUV. Ruben Wilson, 76, and pastor of Three Points Missionary Baptist Church, was a front-seat passenger. Hallie was in the back.
Davis originally was charged in juvenile petitions with counts of felony murder in the death of the Wilsons. Irwin expressed doubts about the state's case on those charges during a hearing last month.
Davis suffered permanent injuries in the vehicle crash, including the loss of his left eye.
By agreement, Irwin dismissed other charges against Davis including vandalism and criminal trespassing counts.
Davis said very little Monday afternoon except "Yes,sir" in response to the judge's questions. He's being housed in the Richard L. Bean Juvenile Service Center in Knoxville.
Meghan Nicely, weeping as she spoke, told Irwin she'd left Hallie with her parents early the morning of the crash. Later that day, a Knox County deputy alerted her that she needed to go to the hospital because her daughter had been hurt.
She said she kept asking after her parents.
"But nobody would tell me where they were," she said.
When the Wilsons died, Nicely said, "My daughter's foundation crumbled that day."
Nicely said her parents would never get to see their granddaughter graduate from high school or get married.
"Stupid decisions," she said, addressing Davis, "can make some bad consequences."
Chase Nicely, her husband and the son-in-law of the Wilsons, called on Davis to think about what he'd done and to learn from it. Davis killed a man and woman who would have forgiven him, Chase Nicely said.
"In this world there is good and there is evil," he said. "I pray that you make the right choice."