Tyler Stasko took the witness stand in his murder trial Friday and told jurors he couldn't remember crashing into a Mercedes - a violent collision in April 2009 that killed a mother, her 2-year-old daughter and a teenager.
Stasko told jurors there was no talk about racing before he began driving his Mitsubishi Eclipse at speeds he estimated as high as 85 mph.
Defense attorney Deke Falls asked him if what happened that day on the highway was the spur of the moment.
"Yes, sir," Stasko replied.
"Have you ever done anything like this before?" Falls asked.
"No, sir," he said.
"Did you mean for any of this to happen?" the defense lawyer then asked.
"No, sir," he replied.
Stasko, 23, of Matthews, N.C., is charged with three counts of second-degree murder. He's accused of racing 47-year-old Carlene Atkinson down a stretch of N.C. 49 near the South Carolina border.
Atkinson's black Chevrolet Camaro wasn't involved in the wreck, but the Lake Wylie woman is also charged with three counts of second-degree murder. Her trial date has not been set.
Superior Court Judge James Morgan ruled Friday that jurors will be able to consider whether Stasko is guilty of second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter or misdemeanor death by vehicle.
Second-degree murder is punishable by a prison term ranging from about eight years to more than 30 years. The punishment for involuntary manslaughter ranges from probation to five years in prison. The maximum punishment for misdemeanor death by vehicle is 120 days' incarceration.
A police crash investigator has testified that Stasko's car was traveling at least 86 mph when it collided with the Mercedes driven by 45-year-old Winthrop University professor Cynthia Furr.
Furr and her 2-year-old daughter, McAllister, were killed. Thirteen-year-old Hunter Holt, a Clover Junior High student and passenger in Stasko's car, also died.
While being cross-examined Friday by Mecklenburg Assistant District Attorney Reed Hunt, Stasko admitted that nobody forced him to drive fast.
The prosecutor informed Stasko that there was no evidence at the crash scene that his Eclipse had left skid marks before smashing into the Mercedes. Stasko said he had no recollection of slamming on his brakes.
Hunt asked Stasko if he thought the wreck was Furr's fault for pulling out into the intersection. Stasko replied that it was mostly his fault.
"I don't want to say it was her fault," Stasko said. "I was speeding. I was doing over the speed limit."
The prosecutor then asked if Stasko thought he could have stopped his car before colliding with the Mercedes had he been driving the 55 mph speed limit.
Stasko said he thought he could have.
Stasko didn't display any emotion on the witness stand. But when he returned to the defense table, he broke down crying and wiped away tears. His father and sister hugged him.
The trial resumes Monday when the prosecutors and defense attorney make their closing arguments. Jurors will then begin deliberating.
On the witness stand Friday, Stasko was able to remember a little about what happened when he began speeding along N.C. 49. He said the Camaro came up behind him. It looked like the Camaro was rocking back and forth, he recalled, like the driver was stepping on the gas pedal and then letting up.
After Stasko told the jurors he couldn't remember what happened when his car slammed into the Mercedes, his lawyer played two recorded interviews of Stasko conducted by a police officer at the hospital not long after the crash.
Stasko, referring to the Camaro, recalled: "They were on my butt. So I stepped on the gas."
He estimated he was traveling between 70 and 85 mph.
"As soon as I came over the hill, the (Mercedes) was stopped," Stasko told the officer. "Right at the last moment, it stepped on the gas and started pulling out."
There was no way, he said, to maneuver around the Mercedes.
"The car was stopped and pulled out in front of me," he said. "I tried to hit the brakes."
Stasko also told the officer about how people were trying to get Hunter out of his car: "I guess he was turning colors. He wasn't doing too well."
The jurors on Friday also heard the tape recording of a 911 call from a motorist who'd seen the fatal crash.
"Oh, my God. ... The car pulled right out in front of him," the woman told the dispatcher.