State Rep. Larry Womble has been absolved of all responsibility in the Dec. 2, 2011 car collision that changed his life forever, ending a months-long ordeal for the longtime community servant.
Womble was charged last spring with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle for the accident on Reynolds Park Road that claimed the life of the other motorist, David Allen Carmichael, and left Womble critically wounded. Carmichael, who died at the scene, was later found to have a blood alcohol content well above the legal limit, but an initial investigation conducted by members of the Winston-Salem Police Department found Womble at fault. The WSPD reportedly made that determination because of the placement of the cars and the direction they were facing following the crash. The state Attorney General’s office was charged with leading the investigation in hopes of avoiding questions of local prosecutorial bias. Womble, a longtime social justice champion, had often gone toe-to-toe with local law enforcement officials over the decades.
State officials announced earlier this week that further investigation into the crash had shown that Carmichael, a father and grandfather, had been the one to cross the centerline and ultimately cause the deadly impact.
“I feel relieved; I feel vindicated, and at the same time, I feel saddened for Hoagy losing his son the way that he did,” Womble said, referencing the victim’s father, CR “Hoagy” Carmichael, who was a personal friend of Womble’s for decades. “My sympathy goes to Hoagy and his family. He’s a wonderful man. I have nothing but praise for him and his family. I extend my hand in any way that I can be of some assistance to them.”
Though the charges, which could have meant up to 45 days in jail for Womble, were troubling, the Winston-Salem State University alumnus, who is still recovering from the injuries he sustained in the wreck, says he believed that truth would prevail.
“I knew the truth would eventually come out,” he remarked. “…I was concerned but at the same time, I had trust and I had belief that the judicial system would work.”
State Sen.-elect Earline Parmon, a longtime friend and colleague of Womble’s, said she is thrilled that Womble is no longer facing criminal charges for the accident that has already robbed him of so much.
“I feel very relieved and elated for Rep. Womble,” she said. “… I think it just gives him the relief he needs to be able to get on with his life and fully recover. He still has a long way to go, but I think that now he can focus fully on his recovery.”
Womble, who suffered serious trauma, including many broken bones, is slowly but surely improving. He undergoes physical therapy three times a week and is now able to stand and walk short distances with the aid of a walker, he reported.
“My progress is coming along, but it is slow,” he said. “It’ll be awhile before I’ll be back up 100 percent and running around like I used to, but I am coming along.”
Womble, who has remained tightlipped about the incident at the behest of his attorney and friend, David Freedman, was slated to officially address the public about the accident for the first time during a press conference at Freedman’s office yesterday. Freedman said being able to put the case behind them has been freeing for both men.
“I’ve seen the strain that it put on him, not so much that he was in a legal proceeding, but the sense that he may be responsible for another man’s death,” Freedman stated. “For me to be able to tell him that he was not the one responsible gave me great peace and satisfaction.”
Even in the face of adversity, Womble has remained steadfast, embodying the fortitude and tenacity he is known for in the legislature and the local community, Freedman said.
“I’ve been his friend for 20 years,” he revealed. “I’ve watched him fight through this over the past year and I’m just amazed at his inner strength and enduring optimism.”
Womble said he draws his inspiration from his faith and the outpouring of support he has received from family and friends in the local sector and around the world.
“I’m just thankful to the Lord that He has kept me here, and He must’ve kept me here for a reason,” he concluded. “I’ve come a long way from the time that I was there in the hospital when so many came over (to visit).”
Though from a medical standpoint, his recovery is going well, Womble said he is anxious to be back on his feet, doing the work that he loves again.
“They are pleased with it, but I’m not 100 percent pleased,” he said of his progress. “I’ve still got work to do, and I want to get busy doing my work … fighting to address the concerns and the issues that affect the community and trying to make a difference for people.”