Curtis Harper bonds out of jail, Thornell family reacts

By: Hilary Magacs Email
By: Hilary Magacs Email

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The man charged with killing a good Samaritan and a pregnant, young mother in a hit and run crash posted bond just before noon on Friday.

Court documents show Curtis Scott Harper's family put up a $259,000 property bond and acquired another $41,000 from a bail bondsman.

Harper is set to appear in court on June 18th. He'll be arraigned on multiple charges for the hit and run crash that killed Nelson Soto, Sr., Chasity Thornell and her unborn daughter on May 30th.

Thornell's family is unhappy that he's out.

"Right now it's just really difficult - the whole process. Tonight is gonna be really hard, knowing that he's out there. What is he doing? Is he planning another trip? Will he show up for the court date? I don't know," said Stephanie Thornell, Chasity's mother.

Thornell said she wishes bond wouldn't have been set in this case or would have been set higher.

"He's had prior convictions against him and this is another one to add to the list. He shouldn't have been out to begin with," said Thornell.

Both Thornell and Chasity's aunt, Shelly Renfro, said it's not fair Harper can go back to living his life like nothing happened, while their family is torn apart.

"He gets to go home to his nice warm bed and do whatever he wants to do and our lives are forever changed. And I'm sure his will be too - but it's just not fair," said Renfro.

"I have to go to bed tonight knowing that his parents can hold him tonight. But all I have left of her is her remains. Her and her baby's remains. That's all I have left," Thornell said.

On Wednesday, Harper turned himself in to authorities after being charged with three counts each of Vehicular Homicide by Intoxication and Vehicular Homicide by Reckless Endangerment.

The 22 year-old also faces two DUI charges, and one charge each of Tampering with Evidence, Failing to Render Aid after an Accident, and Reckless Endangerment.

Harper's attorney, James Price of Nashville, told Local 8 News they planned for Harper to turn himself in once the Grand Jury brought charges.

Authorities believe he was behind the wheel of of the SUV that struck and killed Nelson Soto, Sr., Chasity Thornell, and her unborn child.

Harper had previous run ins with the law. According to the Grand Jury Indictment, he was arrested on a DWI in April of 2009.

Authorities also said Harper was arrested for possessing drug paraphernalia following a traffic stop in Knox Co. last year, but charges were dismissed. In 2008, he was convicted of theft of property under $500 in Franklin, according to the Williamson Co. Sheriff's Office. His sentence was suspended after serving 48 hours at the Williamson Co. Jail.

Soto had reportedly just finished helping Thornell and another woman who had run out of gas in front of his home early in the morning last Wednesday when they were hit. Thornell was seven months pregnant.

Police reported they found pieces of Harper's 2004 Ford Explorer at the scene of the crash on Washington Pike early that morning. Traces of blood, skin and hair were also found on the car during the search. The car is registered to his parents, Pam and Herb Harper of Franklin, TN.

The warrant also claimed witnesses told police Harper admitted "He hit someone on the side of the road."

Harper graduated from the University of Tennessee in May 2012. He majored in Plant Sciences, with a concentration in Landscape Architecture and Design.

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