One image haunts Torry Ingram — that of his mother, Pamela Ingram Smith, pinned in an overturned car, a stranger holding her hand, as Smith said over and over again, “Help me.”
Those would be her last words, Ingram told a judge in Forsyth Superior Court before the woman accused of killing his 63-year-old mother was sentenced Tuesday to a minimum of 10 years in prison.
Chelsea Victoria Martin Wiles, 27, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, driving while impaired, driving while her license was revoked and several other charges connected to the crash that killed Smith on April 18, 2020.
A Forsyth County prosecutor said Wiles, going more than 80 mph, crossed the center line and crashed into Smith’s car, sending it airborne briefly. Smith’s car flipped and landed in a ditch.
Wiles had a blood-alcohol level of 0.11% three and-a-half hours after the crash. The legal limit is 0.08%. Her license had been revoked for a prior conviction of driving while impaired in October 2018.
Judge Julia Lynn Gullett of Forsyth Superior Court consolidated the charges and sentenced Wiles to a minimum of 10 years, five months, and a maximum of 13 years, six months in prison. Wiles was sentenced to four months on the DWI, which will be served at the same time as the sentence she received for the second-degree murder conviction.
Wiles apologized to Smith’s family, saying, “I want you all to know I’m very sorry … I would trade places with her if I could. I really would.”
Torry Ingram said her apology doesn’t mean much to him.
“I wish my mom had mitigating factors,” he said. “I wish my mom had a stack of medical documents.”
Ingram told the judge that he doesn’t like that his mother, who singlehandedly raised him and older brother Rodney Ingram, is dead; he doesn’t like that he found out his mother died while in Dallas, Texas, and he had to catch the earliest flight to Winston-Salem, leaving behind his wife and 6-month-old child; he doesn’t like that the hole in his stomach only grew as he learned how his mother died.
“I don’t like this broken heart you left me with,” he told Wiles, who wiped tears from her eyes. “I’m not mad. I’m not sad. I’m just left with a broken heart.”
According to Assistant District Attorney Matt Breeding, Wiles (who went by Chelsea Byrd at the time she was arrested but has since gotten married) was driving north on N.C. 66 near Alaska Road in Walkertown just before 7 p.m. on April 18, 2020.
Smith was driving south on the same road. The speed limit was 35 mph, and the road curves around the time you get to Alaska Road.
Breeding said Wiles was speeding and had crossed the double-yellow center line into the southbound lane, passing several cars. That’s when she crashed into Smith’s car.
Data taken from both cars showed that five seconds before the collision, Wiles was going 82 mph, Breeding said. About a second before the crash, Wiles was going 78 mph and there was no evidence that she applied her brakes.
At the time of the crash, Smith was turning her steering wheel left as she was going into the curve but quickly steered right in an effort to avoid the crash, Breeding said.
Dan Wanderman, Wiles’ attorney, said Wiles had struggled with anxiety and depression for years and self-medicated, using alcohol. That doesn’t excuse what happened but helps to explain it, he said.
Wiles’ voice trembled throughout the proceeding. Sitting in the second row was her husband, who had their son in a baby stroller. He pushed the stroller back and forth during the hearing to soothe the toddler.
Rodney Ingram told the judge that just before his mother died, he was released from prison, where he had served 12 years. His mother kept telling him they needed to spend more time together, but Rodney Ingram said he had just gotten married.
“You took my mama and it hurts,” he told Wiles. “That’s all I have to say.”